Dr. Scott MacDougall-Shackleton
519-661-2111 ext. 84629
Research in the lab is broadly integrative. We combine field and laboratory studies, and research ranges from population-level studies to individual behaviour to molecular biology.
The main goal is to understand how the mechanisms of behaviour have been shaped by natural selection. We focus on songbirds because of their phenotypic diversity, behavioural complexity and well-studied physiology and neurobiology. Some of our ongoing research projects are described below.
Photoperiodism and seasonal changes in brain and behaviour
Many songbirds exhibit extreme seasonal changes in brain, behaviour and physiology. We explore how changes in photoperiod drive changes in reproductive behaviour and physiology. Topics include
-seasonal changes in GnRH isoforms, and their relation to reproduction
-photoperiod effects on neurogenesis, neuronal recruitment and neuron survival
-photoperiod and hormone effects on food storing
-seasonal changes in singing behaviour and the song control regions of the brain
Response of female songbirds to male song
Female songbirds respond behaviourally and physiologically to male courtship song. We study how variation in song, such as geographic variation or variation in complexity affects these female responses. Female responses are measured behaviourally, in terms of reproductive physiology and activity in specialized regions of the brain. Topics include
-effects of early song learning influences female song preferences
-effects of song learning influence neural responses to song playback
-stress effects on brain development and song learning
Students in my lab have the opportunity to combine field research with use of cutting edge molecular biological techniques to study the behavioural neurobiology of songbirds.
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