The W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology

Faculty

AnholtAnholt, Robert R. H.

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the W. M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology

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Behavioral Genetics & Genomics, Behavioral Neuroscience, Environment & Behavior

Research in the Anholt laboratory focuses on (1) dissecting the genetic architecture of behavior in Drosophila melanogaster, including olfactory behavior, aggression, and startle behavior; (2) using comparative and translational genomic approaches to develop Drosophila as a model for identifying ensembles of genes that predispose to human disorders, including alcohol sensitivity and glaucoma; (3) assessing environmental plasticity of behavioral phenotypes and gene-environment interactions; and (4) determining the functions of members of the olfactomedin gene family.


David_AylorAylor, David

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Genetics

The research focus of the Aylor laboratory is the integration of genomic and genetic data to understand the biological mechanisms underlying complex traits. Two current projects center on male reproduction in the laboratory mouse. First, we are interested in the genetic basis of sterility in hybrid mice. Second, we are interested in the genomic response to endocrine disrupting chemicals, which affect reproduction and behavior. By exposing genetically diverse groups of mice we seek new insight into differential susceptibility and gene-by-environment interactions. We also develop analytical approaches to improve genetic mapping, to integrate heterogeneous data types, and to integrate multiple related experiments.


Borski_RussellBorski, Russell J.

Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Genomics and Neuroendocrinology

The Borski laboratory studies the endocrinology and functional genomics of growth and metabolism, osmoregulation, and sex determination in fish model systems. Research focuses on (1) characterization of the mechanism(s) by which cells and animals cope with rapid fluctuations in external osmolality; (2) examining the interplay of anabolic, catabolic, and stress hormones in maintaining energy homeostasis, feeding behavior and compensatory growth; (3) deciphering novel membrane actions of glucocorticoids, key stress steroids known to rapidly alter multiple physiological processes; and (4) the impact of environmental stressors on sex determination in fishes and the hormones that mediate this process.


Mary Anna Carbone

Carbone, Mary Anna

Research Assistant Professor

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Dr. Carbone is interested in the molecular genetics of complex traits in Drosophila melanogaster with emphasis on phototaxis and lifespan.


Cowley

Cowley, Michael

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

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We are interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms linking growth in early life with health status in adulthood. We focus on how the early environment can influence epigenetics and gene transcription, in turn affecting processes in development, behavior and metabolism.


Rob DunnDunn, Robert R.

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Ecology, Environment & Behavior

The Dunn lab is interested in the ecology and evolution of everyday species, be they bacteria, humans, ants or the mites that live on cheese. At the heart of our work is a mix of insights derived from field work and study of the literature and large-scale biogeographic studies and then, with every project, engagement with the public. We do science with the public, in the public eye. Much of what scientists do, although superficially fancy, can be done by anyone with some training and persistence and so we aim to involve the public in many different ways in our work.


Patricia_EstesEstes, Patricia A.

Research Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Genetics & Genomics, Behavioral Neuroscience

Research in the Estes laboratory focuses on how the central nervous system (CNS) is generated during development, using the Drosophila CNS midline cells as a model. The central nervous system is an extensive communication system consisting of two cell types: neurons and glia. These cells must express the appropriate battery of genes and make connections with other cells to function properly. Dissecting how genes are regulated within the various cell types provides information on how this complicated communication network is established.


ghashghaei-troyGhashghaei, Troy

Associate Professor of Neurobiology, Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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Developmental Neurobiology

The Ghashghaei laboratory is highly focused on genetic regulation of two important cellular behaviors in the developing cerebral cortex: symmetric and asymmetric divisions of neural stem cells. We have identified important genomic loci that potently regulate the critical transition from symmetric to asymmetric divisions during cortical development in the mouse brain. We are highly interdisciplinary researchers who generate genetic mice, use cell biological methods, molecular and biochemical assays, next-generation RNA and DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, and state-of-the-art imaging tools to understand fundamental mechanisms that control this important developmental transition.


James GilliamGilliam, James F.

Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Ecology

James Gilliam is an ecologist with interests in biological evolution and mathematical biology. His study and experimental systems are mainly in headwater streams, mainly with fish, and mainly in island systems in the southern Caribbean (Triinidad and Tobago) and the central Pacific (the Hawaiian archipelago). Modeling and empirical work often involves dispersal behavior, decisions under the threat of death by individuals in the midst of food webs, and/or rapid evolution of behavior and morphology.


John GodwinGodwin, John R.

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Genomics and Neuroscience

Research in the Godwin laboratory is in the areas of molecular endocrinology, neurobiology, neurogenomics, and behavior with a primary focus on the mechanisms and evolution of animal behavior and sexuality. Our two main projects include (1) the neuroendocrinology and functional genomics of sex- and role-change in a coral reef fish (the bluehead wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum) and (2) the neural and functional genomic bases of anxiety-related behavior and stress responsiveness using domestic and wild-derived zebrafish (Danio rerio).


Fred-GouldGould, Fred L.

William Neal Reynolds Professor and Distinguished University Professor of Entomology and Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Ecology, Behavioral Genetics & Genomics, Environment & Behavior

Research in the Gould laboratory focuses on (1) the evolutionary biology of sexual communication in moths, (2) the discovery and manipulation of pheromone receptor genes, (3) the analysis of metabolic processes within the pheromone glands of female moths from the perspective of systems biology, and (4) genetic manipulation of pest species to suppress their populations and/or to convert them into more benign species.


Huang, He (Helen)

Associate Professor, NC State/UNC Department of Biomedical Engineering

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Dr. Huang’s research focuses on reverse-engineering neural control of human movement, neural-machine interface, epidural spinal cord stimulation, and clinical translation of innovative assistive and therapeutic technology to improve the quality of life of people with neuromotor disabilities.


james-huntHunt, James

Visiting Professor

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My research is focused on the evolution of sociality in the wasp family Vespidae. The evolution of sociality is a field where theoretical solutions applicable to all social taxa are being sought, yet it is recognized that each social taxon has unique features of its sociality. My approach is empirical rather than theoretical. I feel that to study a single taxon and reach a comprehensive understanding of its sociality can yield a solution to the Darwinian question of how non-reproductive workers in insects evolved by natural selection. I also feel that a single-taxon solution to Darwin’s question will identify features that can show the way to other single-taxon solutions to Darwin’s question. Only then will we be able to know which features are held in common by multiple social insect taxa, leading to a general solution.


 

kimler_williamKimler, William C.

Associate Professor of History, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor and Director, Thomas Jefferson Scholars Program

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Behavioral Ecology, Behavioral Genetics & Genomics, Behavioral Neuroscience, Environment & Behavior

My research focuses on the history of evolutionary theory from Darwin to the present, with an emphasis on concepts of evidence and persuasion in biological arguments. Case studies include the role of mimetic coloration in controversies over natural selection, the place of ecology in the Evolutionary Synthesis, the origin and interpretation of Morgan’s Canon, and interpretations of the work of Darwin and other naturalists in developing the structure of evolutionary theory. The overall project is to explore the intersection of practices and theories from natural history, ecology, behavioral biology, and genetics within evolutionary biology.


langerhans_r_brianLangerhans, R. Brian

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Ecology

Research in the Langerhans laboratory seeks a better understanding of the origins of biological diversity, focusing on (1) elucidating the predictability of evolution; (2) understanding the impact of human activities on evolutionary patterns and processes in natural systems; (3) determining the mechanisms and frequency by which ecological adaptation can lead to the formation of new species; and (4) uncovering the evolution of morphology, locomotor abilities, and mating behaviors across diverse ecological environments.


lorenzen_marceLorenzen, Marcé D.

Assistant Professor of Entomology

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Behavioral Ecology, Behavioral Genetics & Genomics, Environment & Behavior

Research in the Lorenzen laboratory focuses on (1) uncovering the molecular mechanism(s) that underlie the selfish behavior of the Maternal-Effect Dominant Embryonic Arrest (Medea) factors found in Tribolium flour beetles; (2) using functional-genomics approaches to determine gene function, for example, using RNA interference to determine the function of a novel class of bacterial “DUF1703″ genes that appear to have been laterally-transferred to eukaryotes and subsequently evolved vital functions in Tribolium castaneum; and (3) developing and assessing new promoters, transformation markers, and transgenes for use in genetic pest management.


trudy_mackayMackay, Trudy F. C.

William Neal Reynolds Professor and Distinguished University Professor of Biological Sciences and Entomology

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Behavioral Genetics & Genomics, Environment & Behavior

Research in the Mackay laboratory focuses on understanding the genetic and environmental factors affecting variation in quantitative traits, using Drosophila as a model system. We seek to identify the genetic loci at which segregating and mutational variation occurs, allelic effects and environmental sensitivities, pleiotropic effects on other characters (including fitness), and the causal molecular variants. We screen P-element insertion mutations to identify candidate genes and pathways, and map alleles segregating in nature by performing genome-wide association analyses using our Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel of 192 inbred lines, for which complete genome sequence is available. We use systems genetics analyses to provide biological context to the QTLs and identify transcriptional and genetic networks affecting behaviors. We are currently interested in several behavioral traits, including olfaction, locomotion, aggression, mating alcohol sensitivity, sleep, and circadian rhythm.


Lisa_McGrawMcGraw, Lisa A.

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Ecology, Behavioral Genetics & Genomics, Behavioral Neuroscience

Research in the McGraw laboratory combines approaches derived from molecular biology, genetics, genomics, and neuroscience rooted in an evolutionary biology framework to uncover functional links between genes, the brain, and complex behaviors. Our research utilizes a unique model organism, the prairie vole. These hamster-sized rodents differ from more traditional laboratory animals in that they are highly social and socially monogamous. We employ comparative studies between prairie voles and other closely related, but asocial, promiscuous vole species to explore the neurogenomic architecture of both social and reproductive behaviors. www.mcgrawlab.org


Meitzen_JohnMeitzen, John E.

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Neuroscience

The Meitzen laboratory studies how neuromodulators change neuron function and thus, ultimately, behavior. Most of our work focuses on the actions of steroid sex hormones and catecholamines, especially in the context of sex differences. We employ multiple technical approaches, with an emphasis on electrophysiology, neuropharmacology, immunocytochemistry, and qPCR.


Mishra, Santosh

Assistant Professor, Neuroscience

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Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine

Pruritus (commonly known as itch) and pain are the two most common form of somatosensory perceptions which are implicated in variety of diseases and in our regular day-to-day life. The research interest of my lab is to study the molecular and cellular mechanism of chronic itch and pain sensation. We will use an interdisciplinary approach including molecular genetics, deep sequencing, functional imaging, electrophysiology, optogenetics along with pharmacological and mouse behavior to address these debilitating somatosensory perceptions.


Heather_PatisaulPatisaul, Heather B.

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Neuroscience

Research in the Patisaul laboratory uses rodent models and focuses on (1) understanding the functional roles different estrogen receptors play in the organization of sexually dimorphic neuroendocrine pathways and behaviors, including sexual behavior, anxiety, and aggression; (2) exploring the mechanisms by which environmental endocrine disruptors interfere with hormone-dependent neuroendocrine organization; and (3) assessing if exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors, such as Bisphenol A (BPA) and soy phytoestrogens, during critical life stages alters the timing of pubertal onset and adult fertility. Dr. Patisaul served as a science communication fellow for Environmental Health News in 2009 and continues to be active in science journalism, public policy, and science education.


Reade_RobertsRoberts, Reade B.

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

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Behavioral Genetics & Genomics

Cichlid fish exhibit a diverse array of behaviors, particularly sex-specific mating behaviors that often serve as species boundaries. Research in the Roberts laboratory focuses on understanding the evolutionary genetics of sex determination in these fishes, and how it relates to sex-specific traits and speciation.


schal_cobySchal, Coby J.

Blanton J. Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Entomology

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Behavioral Ecology, Behavioral Genetics and Genomics, Behavioral Neuroscience, Environment and Behavior

Research in the Schal laboratory focuses on (1) insect chemical ecology: pheromone-medicated communication in cockroaches, neuroethology of sugar-aversive behavior in cockroaches (with Silverman), oviposition attractants in mosquitoes (with Apperson), and host-finding in bed bugs; (2) the physiological functions of cockraoch allergens and mitigation strategies to reduce environmental allergens; (3) evolution of pheromone communication in closely related moth species (with Gould, Groot); (4) phylogeography, population genetics, and dispersal of cockroaches and bed bugs (with Vargo); and (5) behavioral endocrinology of sexual behavior in cockroaches.


maxwell_scottScott, Maxwell J.

Professor of Entomology

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Behavioral Ecology, Behavioral Genetics & Genomics, Environment & Behavior

Research in the Scott laboratory focuses on understanding the roles of chromatin modifiers in gene expression and behavior and in applying knowledge of gene regulation to develop genetic systems for control of insect pests. The projects most relevant to the Keck Center are (1) the importance of histone modifying enzymes (e.g., histone deactylases) in long-term memory in Drosophila melanogaster. The courtship conditioning assay is used to assess long-term memory; and (2) the role of the transformer, doublesex and fruitless genes in sex-specific gene expression and behavior in blowfly species such as Lucilia sericata.


Smith, Adrian A.

Research Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences & Head, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

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Behavioral Ecology, Environment & Behavior

My lab is interested in the behavior, communication, and natural history of insects with a particular focus on social insects and ants. Our work spans studies of how queens chemically signal their presence to workers to how ant societies defend themselves against disease. My research lab is glass-walled and on-exhibit in the Nature Research Center at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Therefore, communicating our science to the public is also a central priority and we specialize in doing so through producing digital media.


sombers_leslieSombers, Leslie A.

Associate Professor of Chemistry

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Behavioral Neuroscience

The Sombers laboratory is an interdisciplinary group comprising researchers from Chemistry, Biochemistry, Engineering, Biology, and Physics. Our research focuses on the development and application of analytical techniques to study neurochemical changes in living brain tissue. We use real-time chemical measurements to delineate how specific molecular fluctuations underlie or impair a behavioral response. We study (1) motivated behavior and decision-making, as it relates to drug abuse and addiction and (2) malfunction of dopaminergic projections in neurodegenerative disease states involving oxidative stress, with a focus on motor function in Parkinson’s disease.


Tarpy_DavidTarpy, David R.

Associate Professor of Entomology

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Behavioral Ecology

The Tarpy lab studies the behavioral ecology of insect societies, with a primary focus on the proximate and evolutionary mechanisms of honey bee queen behavior. We have a protracted history of investigations into the adaptive benefits of intracolony genetic diversity. Specifically, we have investigated the fitness advantages of queen polyandry (mating with multiple males) and its effect on colony phenotype. We have also investigated the regulation of reproduction by looking at the genomic and physiological changes in queen bees during mating, as well as the behavioral mechanisms and collective decision-making process of queen rearing, queen competition, and queen replacement within colonies.