We have many ongoing projects in the lab. Most of our projects are driven by the interests of the individual researcher. We have several projects, however, that were envisioned to pair with current projects or were initiated by staff and undergraduates, who have moved on to other career building opportunities. Some of these projects have immediate needs for personnel to carry out the projects. Some projects are quite defined in scope, whereas others are still very open to creative direction from a new project lead. If you are interested in any of the specific projects listed below, please contact Tracy. This list is not fully inclusive and we are always open to new ideas for project direction.
Role of Microglia in Plasticity
Microglia are necessary for stimulating neural progenitor cell proliferation following seasonal neuronal death in HVC. We want to explore the modes of cell death that stimulate microglia and the molecular and behavioral interactions between microglia and neurons, astrocytes, endothelial cells, and neural progenitor cells. This project is quite open in scope and design following a few pre-determined and ongoing pilot experiments.
Simulation of HVC "Ecology"
Using population ecology simulation of cellular dynamics and interactions with other cells and local environment. After creation of the simulator, we will begin parameter testing to identify which parameters drive plasticity. Simulations will also lead to new hypotheses to test in vivo and to more efficient experimental design. Background in population biology or programming beneficial.
Mechanisms of Axonal Projections
New HVC neurons project over 4mm to the downstream target, RA. We would like to explore how these new neurons make connections at their targets and the molecular mechanisms that guide axonal targeting to RA and promote synapse formation. The mechanisms we would like to explore also include retrograde signaling from RA neurons. This project is open in scope and design.
Genetic Basis of Traits and Population Structure
There are multiple "races" of white-crowned sparrows that vary in pigmentation, migratory behavior among other behaviors, and extent of neural plasticity. We are interested in identifying the genetic basis of some of these traits in addition to demographic and population structure analyses. Hybrid zones between the races exist and we believe these zones might be shifting or expanding. Strong desire for field work, computational biology, and genomics work would be beneficial.