Amber M. Makowicz, PhD
Provost Postdoctoral Research FellowDepartment of Biological SciencesFlorida State University319 Stadium Dr, 32303Tallahassee, FL
Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher at Florida State University. I am work with Dr. Kimberly Hughes investigating epigenetics as the potential mechanism for indirect genetic effects. Using the Amazon molly, I am investigating how indirect genetic effects can influence behavioral variation in the clonal species and subsequent epigenetic variation.
My research focuses on how behaviors are influenced by different parameters of the environment. I currently have several projets underway although some topics of my past research interests vary across many areas of animal behavior including but not limited to:
1) Stress behavior: understanding how parental stress is transferred to their offspring, how males and females differ in transferring stress, and what effects ( behavioral, life-history, genetic, epigenetic) the offspring exhibit are a result of that stress.
2) Kin recognition: The theory of kin selection predicts that individuals that share common genes would benefit from the reproductive fitness of each other; therefore, related individuals should be more altruistic and less antagonistic. Theory would predict that the unisexual species would be able to discriminate among clonal strands, associate more frequently and display less aggressive behaviors towards identical sisters. In the sexual/unisexual mating system assessed here there are two species, the sailfin molly and Amazon molly, in which the females compete for the same males. These females live in large, open shoals that constantly vary in the ratio of each species throughout the seasons, in which the social environment may influence individuals to adjust their behaviors towards each other, not only within species but also between species. Consequently, studying the cooperation and conflict within this sexual/unisexual mating system will lead to a better understanding of the evolution of sociality.
3) Sexual harassment: how and if sexual harassment directly or indirectly impact individuals of both the actor and the receiver, and understanding what environmental parameters can influence the degree of harassment are of great interest to me. I use a combination of behavioral and life history techniques to address these questions.
4) Female-female aggression: In the Amazon molly, the details of female-female aggression is largely unknown. Aggression is not very common in either of the parental species (the sailfin molly and the Atlantic molly), therefore, the high amount of aggression is either evolutionarily beneficial for an unknown reason, or it is just a result, such as an additive effect, from the hybridization event. Characterizing the various aspects of female aggression in this species will better allow
5) Other behaviors: I am also interested in the social network of individuals within a population, and the evolution of pre-existing biases and how they can influence an individual's behaviors. Audience effects (how a third non-participate influences an interacting pair) have been shown to alter inter- and intra-sexual conflicts. Previously, I have investigated how this effects mate choice and sexual harassment. What’s more, I have dabbled in morphology and species diversification in Gambusia.