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.
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 in 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, The Dallas World Aquarium
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.
M.S. student, started at Auburn in 2023
Kailey is generally interested in life history tradeoffs across species and the physiological mechanisms behind their function. Currently, her research focuses on the impacts of heat stress exerted on mitochondrial performance and morphology in mammalian mammary glands. By using Mus musculus as a study organism, she hopes to develop methods for evaluating mitochondrial performance under variable stressors that are applicable across a variety of species. Having previously evaluated stressors such as thermoregulation as metabolic constraints in dogs, she hopes to eventually bring her research full circle, potentially by implementing measures of mitochondrial performance within canines.
M.S. student, started at Auburn in 2023
B.S. Biology/Life Science, Thompson Rivers University
Evie's research focus is on investigating how environmental interactions affect reproduction, offspring, and longevity in organisms. She is currently conducting experiments with Mus musculus in challenging environmental conditions to understand the effects of stressors on inter-mitochondrial membrane density and the number of junctions between mitochondria. Her research aims to observe changes in mitochondrial behavior and morphology to comprehend better how they impact animal performance and relative longevity.
Technician, started at Auburn in 2023
Veronica is looking to start graduate school in the Fall of 2024. She expects that her future path combines her love for the natural world and her innate management skills.
In the meantime, she is a lab manager extraordinaire - maintaining our animals, managing undergrads, coordinating our outreach events, and keeping all running smoothly in the lab.
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.