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    Research - Nazca boobies

    Nazca Booby: Isla Española, Galápagos, Ecuador
     
     
     
     
    Non-Parental Chick Maltreatment
     
    One of the most compelling features of human child abuse is its intergenerational
    nature. While this “cycle of violence” has been extensively documented, little is 
    known regarding the mechanism of intergenerational transmission. At our study
    site on Isla Española, Galápagos, all Nazca booby chicks are visited by
    non-parental adult visitors (NAVs) who display parental, aggressive, and/or
    sexual behavior toward the chick.  Our lab has found that the degree of
    victimization during NAV events as a nestling is strongly correlated with future
    NAV behavior as an adult, reminiscent of the "cycle of violence" in human biology. 
    I am investigating whether the stress experienced by chicks during NAV events
    results in long or short term hormonal alterations which predispose them to
    become abusive as an adult, or if NAV behavior is learned socially as is thought
    to be the case in humans.  Under an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant, I have
    extended this work to search for polymorphisms in neurotransmitter-related genes
    which may interact with the environment to influence this "cycle of violence" in
    Nazca boobies.
     
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Booby Personality 

     

    In the past decade, the study of nonhuman personality, or “behavioral syndromes,”

    has suddenly moved out of the realm of psychology and become of great interest

    to behavioral and evolutionary ecologists.  We now know that individuals of many

    species exhibit consistent and predictable variation in behavior and underlying

    physiology that is maintained across several different contexts. These personality

    traits are genetically heritable, related to other traits, such as food intake, growth,

    dispersal, and productivity, and result in quantifiable fitness consequences via

    mate-choice, survivorship, and reproduction. I am currently studying how early life

    experiences affect personality development in the Nazca booby and the long-term

    fitness consequences of personality traits.

     

     

     

     

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