My research involves the affect of natural and anthropogenic disturbance factors on physiology, behavior, and processes of aging. Current projects focus on the effect of anthropogenic light and noise pollution on telomere dynamics, parental behavior and survival. In addition, I am investigating the effects of noise pollution on sleep behavior.
SLEEP IN THE CITY: How does artificial light at night affect EEG-based measures of sleep (CitySleep)?
AbstractSleep is an adaptive state of inactivity, which plays critical functions including replenishing energy and neurological recovery. Artificial light at night (ALAN) is ubiquitous in the urbanizing world, and has the potential to substantially alter sleep patterns. Our understanding of how ALAN affects sleep in wild animals is seriously limited, because past studies have relied on behavioural metrics of sleep, which cannot distinguish different types of sleep (rapid eye movement (REM) versus slow wave sleep (SWS)), or accurately quantify sleep intensity (amount of slow waves within SWS). In this study (CitySleep), the Experienced Researcher (ER) will use state-of-the-art neurologgers to obtain electroencephalogram (EEG) data on sleep in wild great tits (Parus major) exposed to ALAN. She will obtain data from free-living nestlings and from adults in semi-natural aviaries. Great tits sleep in nest boxes that can be experimentally exposed to ALAN, and have served as a model species in behavioural sleep studies. The ER will work with the University of Antwerp's Behavioural Ecology and Ecophysiology (BECO) Group, which has developed methods to manipulate ALAN inside boxes, and has high-quality publications on how ALAN affects sleep behaviour. She will receive expert training on implanting neurologgers from Prof. A. Vyssotski (University of Zurich), and training on interpreting EEG data from Dr. N. Rattenborg's Avian Sleep Research Group (Max Planck Institute). She will contribute expert knowledge of urban ecology, stress physiology and bird handling, and introduce neurologgers to the BECO Group, facilitating a major advance in research methodology. Results will be disseminated through top-tier publications, international conferences and public engagement, and used to advance scientific knowledge and motivate environmental policy changes. The ER will gain skills that will propel her research to a higher level and allow her to secure a permanent research position.
- Research Project
Developmental and later life effects of light and noise pollution: physiological stress, telomere dynamics and fitness.
AbstractOrganisms have evolved adaptations to environmental challenges, but anthropogenic environments introduce novel stressors. Light and noise pollution are increasingly pervasive, and lacking historical predecessors, may overwhelm coping mechanisms and induce physiological stress. Exposure to light and noise pollution may be particularly influential early in life, when developmental trajectories are sensitive to stressful conditions. Yet, little is known regarding effects of light or noise exposure during development, especially in natural populations. Studies to date examining how light and noise pollution affect adult animals have also been limited in scope, and have largely employed short-term metrics of physiological state. Using great tits (Parus major) as a model organism, I will: (1) experimentally examine how light at night affects physiological stress in developing birds, (2) use an observational study to assess effects of noise pollution on developmental stress, and (3) explore how light and noise pollution interact to effect health status and fitness in personality-typed adults. I will use two powerful approaches that have not been previously applied in this context: measuring corticosterone in feathers (long-term metric of stress status), and assessing telomere degradation rates (marker of aging rate). Living in light and noisy environments has consequences that are relevant across many taxa. This study will motivate action to mitigate these effects.
- Promoter: Grunst Melissa
- Research Project