How tails, sex and living space affect behavior
At the national meeting of the Animal Behavior Society in Columbia, students, faculty and staff displayed posters and gave oral presentations featuring their recent research on salamanders and darters, or small stream fish, and how their behavior reacts to changes in their environment.
Paige Farmer, a 2016 graduate with a bachelor of science in biology from Republic, found that the size of a salamander’s tail, which can fall off as a defense mechanism, plays a large role in how they choose their mate.
Kelsey Anderson, a 2016 graduate with a master of science in biology from St. James, discovered that salamanders and darter fish, while they are completely different species, can communicate the presence of a predator to one another through alarm cues if they have lived in the same area together for an extended period of time.
Additionally, at this year’s annual meeting of the Missouri Herpetological Association in Taney County, Colton Lynn, a graduate student pursuing a master of science in biology from Conway, presented preliminary results from his research titled “Influences of Sex, Territorial Ownership and Species of Aggression in Two Species of Plethodon.”
“My preliminary research has shown that there is a significant difference between both the species and sex of a salamander when it comes to establishing their territory,” said Lynn. “Those results open up a lot of exciting possibilities for where the research may go in the future.”
Collaborative research: A catalyst for growth
Mathis, renowned by her students as an inspiring and motivational researcher, tries to bring out the best researcher in each of her students.
Lynn, who originally worked in Mathis’ lab as an undergraduate, says the standard Mathis sets for her students pushes them to reach new levels of excellence.
“It’s exciting — she is so passionate about what she does and encourages us so much,” said Lynn. “At the same time, she also expects a lot. It’s made me grow as a student and researcher.”
The opportunity to work in such an immersive and experience-based lab, said Lynn, played a significant role in moving him outside of his comfort zone.
“Working so closely with a faculty member completely changed my Missouri State experience,” said Lynn. “I was able to transform from being a student that just went to class and did homework to an involved and engaged researcher in my field.”
For more information, contact Mathis at 417-836-5699.