Assistant Professor of Biology

B.S. – University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

M.S. – Washington State University

Ph.D. – Oregon State University

Postdoc – Monell Chemical Senses Center


Phone - 540-568-5116

Fax – 540-568-3333

Office – Bioscience 2016G

Office Hours

: Human Physiology (BIO 270)

Research Interests:  Pheromones, Chemical Ecology, Endocrinology, Sexual Signals, Animal Behavior, Chemical Senses, Reptiles

Hormonal modulation of pheromone production – The main focus of my research is the interaction between sex steroid hormones and sexual signaling in vertebrates. I use snakes as a model group of vertebrates to study this aspect of reproductive biology because snakes rely almost exclusively on intraspecific chemical signals (pheromones) to identify mates. Further, snakes are great subjects for ethology because their behaviors are easily scored and analyzed. My research uses classical endocrinology techniques like castration and hormone replacement to effect change in animal behavior and chemical signals. I also use analytical chemistry techniques (fractionation, GC-MS) to quantify such changes and have explored the abiotic factors modulating pheromone expression as well.

My lab is currently determining the a) phylogenetic depth of the steroid-pheromone expression mechanism and b) expression and activation of protein substrates for this specific hormone action. Students are actively involved in the isolation of pheromones, animal care, surgical manipulations, field work and behavioral studies with this project.

Reproductive chemical ecology of invasive reptiles – Following my Ph.D. work in garter snakes, I began collaborating with researchers at USDA (Drs. Michael Avery and Bruce Kimball) to determine the chemical signals used to coordinate reproduction in invasive reptiles. With Dr. Avery and Dr. Michael Grace (Florida Institute of Technology), my lab has been isolating nonvolatile chemical cues in Burmese pythons by extracting the lipids produced in their shed skins. Pythons have become an invasive species of concern in the Florida Everglades, and we are determining if the cues we can isolate from their skins are a) sexually dimorphic, b) seasonally variable, c) attractive to conspecifics and d) useful in management strategies. Students in my lab are isolating these cues and analyzing behavioral data from trials exposing snakes to the isolates.

With Dr. Kimball (NWRC-USDA, Monell), my lab has also been working with brown treesnakes, an invasive reptile that has extirpated native bird species on the island of Guam. Previous work by my doctoral mentor, Dr. Bob Mason, determined that the same compounds in garter snakes are produced in brown treesnakes as well as novel compounds (ketodienes). We have discovered recently that estrogen implantation of male brown treesnakes augments their skin lipid compounds to become female-typical. Students in my lab are isolating these cues and assisting in the hormonal manipulations and behavioral analyses. 

Back to Top