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Melannie, at the time a high school student, spearheaded behavioral data collection and worked alongside me in measuring mRNA in the brain.

How do animals know when to start their breeding season so that they raise their young when resources are abundant? The outdoor photoperiod plays a role, but what about the availability of limited environmental resources? Using female European starlings, I found that exploration of a nest cavity was associated with changes to neural systems involved in the control of sexually-motivated behaviors, such as female responses to male courtship. Here’s a link to the full study, which has been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology!

 

 

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Female starlings explore their outdoor aviaries where they were housed during the study.