Long-term maintenance of captive populations, and release of captive animals into the wild, is one of many approaches to endangered species conservation. For conservation biologists working with captive populations, however, a fundamental question is: How has captivity altered the behavior, morphology, and physiology of captive-bred animals? Broadly, I am interested in how populations respond to rapid changes in their environment. Specifically, I have focused on this question of how animals respond when they are brought into captivity and when, generations later, captive-bred individuals are released back into the wild. Altered selective pressures and increased stress levels are often associated with novel captive environments thus potentially changing the expression and distribution of behavioral, physiological, and morphological traits. Such changes can have profound effects on the success of conservation programs that use captive-bred animals. Currently, I am working with the reintroduction of whooping cranes into central Wisconsin to establish an Eastern Migratory Population of these endangered birds.
Videos on my research and my graduate students’ work: