FSU Biology - Ecology & Evolution
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Animal Behavior

Understanding why animals behave as they do is among biology’s most challenging problems. Research in animal behavior focuses on new insights into longstanding questions, such as why some males are more attractive to females than others, as well as on provocative new questions, such as how differences in the social environment experienced by individuals in the same population maintain genetic variation for behavioral patterns. The power of technology has enabled behavioral biologists to explore both traditional and newer questions as never before, from using genetic methods to diagnose mating success to manipulating the endocrine environment within an individual to understand cause and effect relationships between hormones and behavior to employing computational analyses of video recordings to discern subtle variations in the social interactions expressed in groups with different mixtures of behavioral phenotypes.


Elizabeth Brown

Most animals, including humans, need to sleep and eat. Being able to do so is critical for survival. What are the genetic and neural mechanisms that regulate these behaviors and how do they change with age? Our lab investigates these questions using the fruit fly, Drosophila, where genes are easy to manipulate. We use multiple approaches, including genetic screening, behavioral analysis, genomics, and brain imaging techniques in this accessible model system with the goal of uncovering fundamental principles that regulate behavior.

Scott Burgess

My research combines ecological and evolutionary principles to study the population biology of coastal marine invertebrates. One main focus is on the evolution of dispersal, reproductive strategies, and life histories. Another main focus is on the ecology and evolution of cryptic species of corals in the genus Pocillopora. We typically use some combination of field and laboratory experiments, population, quantitative, and molecular genetics, and mathematical modeling/theory.

Michael Cortez

I use mathematical models to explore how adaptation and species interactions drive patterns observed across communities. Much of my past work has focused on predator-prey, host-pathogen, and other exploiter-victim systems.

Emily H. DuVal

My research program explores the evolution of social behavior in animals, particularly birds, with an emphasis on cooperation, sexual selection, and reproductive strategies.

Kimberly A. Hughes

Organisms are enormously genetically diverse. Even traits subject to strong natural selection, such as fertility, longevity, and reproductive behavior can vary greatly among individuals within a single population, and much of this variation can be heritable. I strive to understand why so much genetic variation persists for traits under strong selection and also to understand the consequences of this diversity for individuals, species, and communities.

Emily C. Lemmon

The goal of my research program is to gain insight into the process of speciation in order to understand the origin of biodiversity. I employ an integrative approach to studying speciation, which involves several fields of biology, including behavioral ecology, evolutionary neuroscience, phylogenetics, population genetics, genomics, and ecology.

Don R. Levitan

I am interested in the ecology and evolution of marine invertebrates. My work examines the interactions between ecological processes, natural and sexual selection, and molecular evolution. I am particularly interested in how sperm availability and population density influence the evolution of gamete traits and reproductive behavior and the cascading effects of this selection on reproductive isolation and speciation.  I enjoy integrating field experiments and molecular studies with theory.

Joseph Travis

I am interested in how and why the features of animals, particularly freshwater fish and amphibians, vary from one population to another.  Variation among local populations of the same species represents the earliest stage in the adaptive generation of biodiversity and understanding that variation can give us insights into a variety of ecological and evolutionary processes that affect life histories, morphology, behavioral patterns, and even physiological responses.

Emeritus Faculty2

William F. Herrnkind

Much of my research has involved underwater technology, manipulative field experiments, and mesocosms to study the Caribbean spiny lobster.

1: Can mentor graduate students in the Department of Biological Science
2: Cannot mentor graduate students in the Department of Biological Science