Dr. Wendy R. Hood
Curator of Mammals, Auburn University Museum of Natural History
Office: 315 Rouse Life Science Bldg
Lab: 308 Funchess Hall
Mail: 101 Rouse Life Science Bldg, Auburn, AL 36849
Honors and Awards:
2015: NSF CAREER Grant
2016: Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award
2020: Auburn University, College of Science and Mathematics, Young
I became interested in understanding how and why condition and reproductive performance varies among individuals as an undergraduate observing the foraging and nursing patterns of Steller sea lions on a small island just off the coast of California. I saw first hand that maternal effort can play a formative role in how fast pups grow and whether or not they survive. Today, I continue to be fascinated by why life-history traits vary among individuals and how the environment and maternal effects contribute to these differences.
The questions that we address in my lab largely focus on the critical periods of growth, reproduction, and senescence. Differences in performance during these periods are intriguing because of their direct impacts on fitness. I maintain an active laboratory with a post-doc, grad students and undergraduates. You can learn more about the current research projects that we're working on in 'the Hood' under Research.
Post-doctoral Fellows and Graduate Students
Post-doctoral fellow; started in January 2022
My current postdoctoral research in ocean sciences aims to understand the "Effects of increasing temperature and ultraviolet radiation on copepod mitochondria along a latitudinal gradient" along the west coast of North America in CA, OR, and WA. This work aims to: 1) determine if UV radiation influences mitochondrial behavior and morphology in natural populations of Tigriopus californicus copepods in the same manner observed in a laboratory setting, 2) determine if temperature affects mitochondrial behavior and morphology in natural populations of copepods, and 3) determine how much the behavior and morphology of mitochondria change in the short-term versus the long-term in response to changing environmental conditions.
Post-doctoral fellow; started in February 2022
I am eco-evo physiologist interested in animal energetics, especially mitochondria. My main research interests revolve around how genetic variation between individuals can underline their metabolic phenotypes and shape their adaptation to challenging environments. I’m focusing on whole-organism physiological performance, mitochondria respiration, oxidative stress, and unfolded protein response. I am also a space biology enthusiast interested in the effects of space conditions on mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum stress responses. In addition, I’m interested in the role of mitochondria in process of aging.
Ph.D. student, started at Auburn in 2017
Female reproductive success naturally declines with increasing age, however, whether the cost of reproduction reduces the longevity of an individual is still a matter requiring greater investigation. Reproduction and lactation are highly energetically demanding processes likely sequestering energy from mitochondria. Ashley is investigating how mitochondria are affected by reproduction and how that ultimately influences longevity. To do this, she maintains a colony of house mice in semi-natural enclosures and monitors the body temperatures for reproductive and non-reproductive female mice. At the end of the study, she will study their mitochondrial respiratory capacity, physical fitness, and look for markers of oxidative damages, senescence markers, and the types of mutations present in the liver, brain, and skeletal muscle tissues. She is also collecting the same data from animals of different age groups in a more traditional laboratory setting to understand how aging influences mitochondrial function and performance.
Ph.D. student, started at Auburn in 2018
Kaylene is interested in understanding how individual variation in physiology like mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum function play a role in adapting to different environments. In addition, she is interested how physiological variation affects reproduction and other life-history traits. Her current project is working to understand how mouse physiology changes under lab, field, and semi-natural enclosure environments, and so working to validate semi-natural enclosures as an ecologically relevant setting for future studies.
Ph.D. student, started at Auburn in 2020
Emma is an avian biologist and master bird bander studying various aspects of bird migration from both an ecological and physiological perspective. Emma's thesis research will focus on understanding the physiological underpinning of migration in neotropical birds. However, she also works with a variety of avian groups from hummingbirds to birds of prey and has participated in research throughout the Americas from Saskatchewan, Canada to Belize. Emma is co-advised by Dr. Geoff Hill.
Ph.D. student, started at Auburn in 2021
Natalie is interested in the physiological basis for hybrid breakdown. Her research aim is to determine if hybrid dysfunction arises from negative epistatic interactions of mitochondrial and nuclear genes or between nuclear genes alone. Working with butterfly species Orange Sulfur, Common Sulfur, Postman Butterfly, and Cydno Longwing, she plans to evaluate functional differences between the parental species and hybrid crosses between the sister taxa.
Ph.D. student, started at Auburn in 2022
Curator of Amphibians
Chris's research focuses on reproductive stress and its implications in a genus of amphibians with high levels of maternal care. He is looking into the effects of differing levels of reproductive stress in the genus Oophaga with an objective of efficiently maximizing the production of captive-bred offspring in the Large Colombian Obligate (LCO) species able to be repatriated and reintroduced into the native habitats. The goal is to maximize the number of offspring produced without sacrificing the quality of these offspring. He will be doing a deep dive into stress physiology to identify methods to improve long-term health in these amphibians. The results from this research will be directly implemented into currently existing conservation programs involving the critically endangered Colombian Oophaga species.
Chris is currently the Curator of Amphibians at The Dallas World Aquarium in Texas, where he focuses on describing methods to conserve endangered New World amphibian species; specifically, Atelopus, Cruziohyla, Cetrolenidae, Ranitomeya, and obviously, Oophaga. Cooperation with Zoo Calí in Colombia on the Oophaga Project was made possible through DWA’s connections with various conservation directives in Latin America.
We work closely with 3 lab groups:
Biological Sciences, Auburn University
The Hill lab studies sexual selection, speciation, and mitonuclear interactions primarily in avian models. We occasionally collaborate on empirical studies (including our 2019 paper in Proceedings B) but mostly we help each other become better scientists. We have weekly lab meetings together, where we give each other feedback on our manuscripts, presentations, and have professional development discussions. We often attend meetings together and regularly congregate to celebrate each other's successes.
Kinesiology, Auburn University
We have worked closely with Andreas Kavazis and his lab since 2013. Most of our mitochondrial research is done in collaboration with his lab. Andreas and his graduate students, including Hailey Parry (pictured with Andreas), have trained many of my students in methods used to quantify mitochondrial physiology. Andreas and I have been co-PI's on several federal grants and, with Geoff Hill, on the AU president award that funded the AU MitoMobile.
Pharmacy and the Peromyscus Genetic Stock Center, U. of South Carolina
We have been working with the Kiaris lab since 2017 when we were awarded an NSF-EPSCoR grant. Hippokratis is the director of the Peromyscus Genetic Stock Center. Our collaboration focuses on understanding the ecological and evolutionary significance of variation in ER stress and its relevance to mitochondrial physiology.