SICB Division of Comparative Endocrinology (DCE)

DCE Researchers Database Entry

Stephan Schoech

The Schoech Lab: Integrating Studies of Endocrinology, Behavior, Physiology, Evolution, and Ecology
We study the nature of the seemingly infinite interactions between the environment and free-living animals therein. For over 20 years I and my students and post docs have used the cooperatively breeding Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) as a study organism. Topics have included: the endocrinology of cooperative breeding by comparing hormone profiles of breeders and non-breeding helpers; the importance and role of nutrition on reproductive physiology and decisions; the physiology of senescence; stress physiology and the role of corticosterone in timing of reproduction; immune capability and its role in fitness, as well as life history trade-offs; the development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in nestlings, as well as the factors that explain among individual variance; and the long-term effects of nestling condition, especially corticosterone levels. Regarding the latter, our current work focuses on nestling corticosterone levels and the degree to which developmental exposure to this hormone affects the physio-behavioral phenotype of individuals over their lifetimes. This is being accomplished by assessing the links among life history traits, personality (fearfulness, neophobia), cognitive ability (problem solving), and stress reactivity via measurements of both baseline and stress-induced corticosterone.

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SmartFeeder: a Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID)-enable system that selectively feeds individual scrub-jays with the correct Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) code.