Cynthia J. Downs

Assistant Professor
Hamilton College
Department of Biology

Email: cdowns@hamilton.com

I am an ecological physiologist who investigates how the diverse physiological traits expressed by animals alter an animal’s interaction with its environment and mediates the animal’s ecology, population dynamics, and evolutionary trajectories.  My research is largely focused at the organismal level, but because organismal-level phenotypes are not independent of each other, of the mechanisms that mediate expression of phenotypes, or of ecological and evolutionary history, I integrate studies across biological levels.  Specifically, my program seeks to understand (1) mechanisms that mediate physiological traits and trade-offs, (2) how physiological traits determine life histories and population dynamics, and (3) how environmental conditions affect physiological phenotypes.  Ultimately, I seek to understand the interplay among levels of biological organization that lead to expression of a physiological phenotype, and the consequences of individual variation in determining physiological phenotypes. To investigate these topic, I use diverse techniques from multiple disciplines including experimental evolution, immunology, population ecology, and comparative physiology to collect data at different levels of organization (e.g., molecular, organisms, populations).

Two examples of my research questions are:

1) The evolution of life-history and physiological trade-offs, particularly those that involve metabolic rates and immune function.

            a) Physiology and immune function in large mammals.

            b) Trade-offs among physiological and ecological traits in mice.

2) Do ecto-parasites harm their hosts?

            a) Physiological responses of rodents to fleas with different evolutionary histories.

            b) How do environmental stressors and the state of the hosts affect host-parasite interactions in desert rodents? 

            c) How does host state (e.g., reproductive status) affect host-parasite interactions?

I co-organizing a symposium entitled "Methods and Mechanisms in Ecoimmunology" for the annual meeting Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Check out the colloquium website and talk schedule!!!! 
Check out the coverage of our colloquium in Science!
The colloquium proceedings have been published in Integrative and Comparative Biology.  Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Link to my Google Citations site
Link to my Researcher ID site

Link to my ResearchGate page