Ecophysiology of Stress
Stress and glucocorticoids have well-known and important effects on the development and function of the nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Recent laboratory studies indicate that prenatal stress and/or glucocorticoid treatment have detrimental effects on the brain, behaviour and HPA axis in adult offspring, but it is not clear whether physiological and neurological changes persist across multiple generations and, importantly, what the long-term consequences of prenatal stress are on offspring fitness. Moreover, the HPA axis is a key physiological mechanism connecting an organism to its environment, through both acute responses and long-term adaptation, yet how stress influences fitness in wild populations is virtually unknown.
In collaboration with the Kluane Red Squirrel Project and Ben Danzter, we are examining the effects of prenatal stress on neuroanatomy, stress-physiology and fitness in a wild population of red squirrels.