Downs Ecological Physiology Lab

Cynthia J. Downs - Assistant Professor, Department of Biology Hamilton College

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. Much of my work asks questions in the area of ecological immunology. 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).


(Students discussing outreach over pizza)