Free and open to the public.
Abstract: Understanding the relationship between physiological traits, short-term responses to environmental conditions, and long-term fitness will help us predict how different species, and different individuals within a species, will respond to threats like species invasions, urbanization and climate change. However, it is particularly difficult to link neuroendocrine traits to survival and fitness, both because neuroendocrine systems are complex, involving multiple components both upstream and downstream of hormone release, and because they are dynamic, fluctuating in response to internal and external conditions. My research uses novel approaches adapted from biomedicine and molecular biology to address these challenges. Because of its central role in helping animals cope with challenges, much of my work has focused on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and my main study subject has been a common and invasive wild bird, the house sparrow (Passer domesticus). In this talk, I will discuss insights gained from investigating multiple aspects of neuroendocrine systems, and the potential of innovative non-lethal approaches, such as computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, to allow examination of individual variation in neuroendocrine traits, how these traits respond to different conditions, and ultimately predict individual fitness.