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

Looking Beyond the Breeding Groups
Looking Beyond the Breeding Groups

Every winter, trees on high mountains in a small area northwest of Mexico City turn orange. Close inspection reveals branches filled with brilliantly colorful monarch butterflies, rather than fiery leaves, as the eastern North American population of monarchs winters there. Their numbers, however, are shrinking. New research at Michigan State University, published in the current issue of the journal Ecography, makes a strong case that the reasons for this decline go far beyond what’s happening on the wintering grounds and addresses a current controversy about the primary causes of the species' decline.

$1.5M NSF Grant to Explore Secrets of Electric Fish Genome
$1.5M NSF Grant to Explore Secrets of Electric Fish Genome

Electric fish have been a model biology system since the 18th century. Their potential, though, has been mostly isolated to neurological studies.Thanks to the recent availability of electric fish genome sequences, Michigan State University researchers hope to harness the power of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in electric fish to make a new type of model for biology.

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.