Research in the Earley laboratory centers around animal behavior and the diverse mechanisms that underlie remarkable levels of behavioral variation among individuals of a population. The vast majority of our work involves fishes, and fuses field observations of behavior and ecology with laboratory studies on hormones, metabolism, gene expression, and neurobiology.
In the mangrove ecosystems of south Florida and the Caribbean, we study the mangrove rivulus – a self-fertilizing hermaphroditic fish with extraordinary sexual habits and unique population architecture. Our work with the mangrove rivulus focuses on gene x environment interactions during development and during adulthood, and the mechanisms that set phenotypic plasticity into motion. Back in our home state of Alabama, we have initiated projects on the nest association behavior of bluenose shiners with the goal of revealing why shiners lay their eggs in the nests of sunfish, how they determine suitable egg-laying sites, and how the costs and benefits of this interspecific interaction play out from both the shiner and sunfish perspective.
Research interests also include:
- Endocrine and metabolic correlates of performance in aggressive contests.
- Neuroendocrine mechanisms of experience-dependent changes in behavior.
- Assessment strategies employed by animals during aggressive contests.
- Social eavesdropping, audience effects, and winner-loser effects.
- Adaptive value of carotenoid-based color and mechanisms underlying flexible expression.
- Developmental plasticity and adult phenotypic flexibility of life history, endocrine, and behavioral traits
- Gene x environment interactions and the evolution of integrated phenotypes.
- Social, endocrine, and genomic mechanisms of environmental sex determination and sex change.
- Seasonal and diurnal fluctuations in steroid hormone concentrations.
- Parasites as drivers of behavioral variation; evolutionary implications
- Non-invasive hormone sampling in fishes and amphibians.
- Computational and Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics
- Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Conservation Biology
- Integrative Organismal Biology
We investigate the neurobiological, hormonal, genetic and physiological mechanisms underlying the expression of diverse phenotypes, mostly those that arise through environment-genotype interactions. We manipulate the social and physical environments (including salinity, temperature, and exposure to pollutants) and examine phenotypic endpoints including behavior, life history, and sex.
We examine the evolution of multivariate phenotypes using a combination of field sampling, phenotyping, and quantitative genetics. We also examine the evolution of mixed mating systems (selfing + outcrossing) and sex change across the enormous geographical range of our study organism, the mangrove rivulus fish.