Rebecca Koch in Grand Teton National Park

Rebecca E. Koch

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Toomey Lab, The University of Tulsa

(R.E. Adrian)

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Evolutionary biology across winged systems

I take an integrative approach to answering longstanding questions about animal communication and sexual signaling. My dissertation focused on a unique system of domestic canaries that offered control over carotenoid pigment availability in order to assess the fundamental bases for honesty in colorful avian signals and the role of dietary carotenoids in physiological health. (Read the main results here)

 

Explaining the mechanisms that underlie condition-dependent signals remains a key challenge in behavioral ecology. My recent work has shifted to the new field of mitonuclear ecology, applying my zoological background to tackle how mitochondrial variation influences physiological and behavioral performance. In my first postdoctoral fellowship, I used the model system of the fruit fly to explore how variation at the cellular level cascades upward to variation in behavior--particularly mating display behaviors. The genetic lines I developed are also excellent for testing the Mother's Curse hypothesis and the functional effects of mitochondrial genetic variation. Recently, I began a new position working with Matt Toomey to better understand the genetic and physiological underpinnings of carotenoid-based pigmentation in birds--which has been hypothesized to have key links to mitochondria.
Background and banner photos from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, USA--the site of my first field research position.

Male flies courting a mating pair