Research

We study life in context. Our research aims to answer fundamental questions that address national needs related to sustainable biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human and animal health and welfare. We focus on developing an integrative understanding of how complex biological systems develop, function, interact and evolve in a complex and changing world. Our vision is based on the proposition that by examining biological phenomena at all levels of the hierarchy of life in their ecological and evolutionary contexts, we can identify more meaningful questions and develop more meaningful answers. We work across the entire tree of life at all levels of biological organization, ranging from molecules to global ecosystems, over time scales ranging from milliseconds to millennia.

The faculty, postdoc, and graduate student directories provide general descriptions of our diverse research initiatives. A more vivid and dynamic picture can be seen from the news stories posted on our home page and abstracted below. Feel free to contact any of us for more information.

 

Our Research in the News

Hormone Levels of Juvenile Hyenas Can Predict Life-History Trade-Offs
Hormone Levels of Juvenile Hyenas Can Predict Life-History Trade-Offs

A recent publication by Nora Lewin, Eli Swanson, Barry Williams, and Kay Holekamp is a cover story for the April issue of Functional Ecology. The team found that hyena hormone levels measured early in life can predict trade-offs between growth, reproduction, and lifespan. Their study highlights the importance of early postnatal development as a determination point of life histories in mammals. 

Seabird Bones, Fossils Reveal Broad Food-Web Shift in North Pacific
Seabird Bones, Fossils Reveal Broad Food-Web Shift in North Pacific

For thousands of years, the Hawaiian petrel has soared over the Pacific Ocean, feeding on fish and squid. Now, using evidence preserved in the birds’ bones, scientists at Michigan State University and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have discovered that the now endangered seabird has experienced a significant shift in food resources most likely during the past 100 years – a disruption that may be due to industrial fishing practices. The study, in the current issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, offers unique insight into how an ocean food web has changed since the onset of industrial fishing and other major human influences in oceanic ecology. 

Ingo Braasch Lands NIH Grant to Study Connection Between Fish Genes and Human Medicine
Ingo Braasch Lands NIH Grant to Study Connection Between Fish Genes and Human Medicine

Ingo Braasch has received a $727,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve the use of fish as disease models for human medicine. Ingo is leading the MSU efforts of this collaborative grant that also includes the University of Oregon and Nicholls State University (Louisiana), will focus on the spotted gar, which has a similar genome to humans and zebrafish, a popular biomedical fish model. The ancient, slowly evolving spotted gar can serve as a "bridge species" between human and zebrafish, thereby opening pathways to important advancements in human biomedical research.