image of Professor Boonstra

Professor of Ecology & Evolution and Physiology

Research Focus

The research focus of my lab is to understand how the stress axis functions in natural populations of mammals and birds to regulate and limit their populations. The stress axis is a vital regulator of adaptation in birds and mammals and a pivotal component of the neuroendocrine system. The system is a major pathway that integrates environmental change and through which life history decisions to reproduce, to grow, or to put energy into storage are implemented.

The functioning of the stress axis affects a wide range of interrelated biological processes, including the rate of aging, life history and reproduction, the immune system, behavior, and the rate of neurogenesis.

At the individual level, the stress axis plays a key role in allowing animals to cope with change and challenge in the face of both environmental certainty and uncertainty. At the species level, the stress axis plays a central role in evolutionary adaptations to particular ecological pressures and an understanding of differences among species is essential to understanding life history adaptations. My research program focuses on these related areas.