MSc student (January 2020-present)
Currently, the urban environment is the fastest growing habitat type on the planet. This rapid expansion of urban landscapes poses novel challenges, selective pressures, and stressors to which organisms in these environments must respond. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis plays a large role in an organism’s ability to react to it’s environment, initiating adaptive physiological and behavioural stress responses important to survival.
For my MSc thesis I will be investigating the ecophysiological impact of urbanization on eastern grey squirrels (Sciursus carolinensis) through the relationship between environmental stress and rates of neuron formation in the brain (neurogenesis). Additionally I will be examining the consequences of maternal stress on offspring physiology through a comparative study between urban and rural individuals. With this research I hope to further knowledge on the mechanisms that allow organisms to cope with rapid anthropogenic changes, in order to aid in the design of meaningful conservation strategies.