The Phelps lab is broadly interested in animal social behavior, its neural, genetic and molecular mechanisms, and how those mechanisms evolve. Using “exotic” rodent models, we focus on the nature and consequences of within- and between-species variation in behavior. One of our model species is the singing mouse (genus Scotinomys) of Costa Rica. These mice are named for their elaborate and audible vocalizations. While ultrasonic vocalization is common across rodents, “songs” – these elaborate vocalizations spanning ultrasonic and audible frequencies – are uniquely derived in singing mice. Singing mice are sister to pygmy mice of the genus Baiomys, whose vocalizations are shorter, softer, and entirely ultrasonic. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that this is the basal state for vocalization. Northern pygmy mice, Baiomys taylori, are common in Texas, facilitating comparative study. This comparative analysis will help us elucidate the evolutionary origins of song in the singing mice.
Our immediate needs are for students to help us with this comparative study, particularly with its field aspects. Student volunteers will gain experience in a variety of areas, including rodent trapping, handling, and husbandry; two-choice behavior tests; and acoustic playback and recording methods. Exceptional volunteers may be offered the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica in Summer 2014.
We are looking for students who have successfully completed courses with lab components in biology or chemistry. Working in the field can be hard and demanding, so we are also looking for students who are comfortable in and enjoy the outdoors, are self-motivated, demonstrate a willingness to learn new skills, and can work both independently and cooperatively. The ability to work in hot and often buggy environments is required.
This is an ongoing project. We are looking for students with 2 or more years to spend working in the lab. We will accept applications until positions are filled.
Initial tasks will be focused on helping with existing projects and basic lab maintenance. As students become more skilled and have demonstrated commitment and conscientiousness, independent projects will be available in later semesters. In order to have a meaningful experience, we require that students have 10-20hrs per week to spend on the project and are able to attend lab meetings on Friday afternoons (3-5pm). Students who are interested in helping with weekend fieldwork are especially needed.
International Research: Project-related Regions
International Information: Project-related Countries
February 6, 2014
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