Research Areas

 
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Salamander sociality and the risk of disease

Using field and laboratory studies we have been documenting relationships between communal nesting and fungal disease, for populations and species of Batrachoseps.
We have taken a similar approach with salamanders across the genera Taricha, Aneides, and Ensatina. This project is a collaboration with Vance Vredenburg (SFSU) and was supported by NSF.

 
 
 
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Reproductive conflict in maritime earwigs

The maritime earwig lives in dense colonies along the seashore, where females initiate and guard solitary nests. Our work has shown that the function of maternal care is to remove pathogens from eggs and to defend eggs against cannibalism by other females. Most recently we have profiled the protective bacteria females deposit on their eggs. 

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Mathematical models of social evolution

Despite the evolutionary advantages of group living, conflict remains between genetically selfish individuals over the allocation of reproduction and offspring care. We use mathematical models to predict evolutionary strategies of conflict resolution within these social groups. 

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The microbiomes of California salamanders

In collaboration with Vance Vredenburg we have been profiling bacterial communities on the skin of Ensatina eschscholtzii, which form a “ring” species complex across California. Our goal is to understand the influence of genetics, life history, and surrounding habitat on the composition of Ensatina microbiomes. We have also profiled bacterial communities found on other salamander species within the genera Batrachoseps and Aneides.

 
 
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Publilia treehopper reproductive tactics

For his Ph.D. thesis Dr. Zink worked on maternal care and communal egg-laying by treehoppers on goldenrod. In addition to quantifying the costs and benefits of egg guarding, he discovered that females adopt an alternative tactic of laying eggs in the nests of other females without providing any care themselves (brood parasitism). He found that females adopting a mixed strategy had the highest lifetime reproductive success. 

 
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Cotton flower abortion due to Lygus herbivory

Dr. Zink's USDA postdoctoral fellowship focused on the feeding behaviors of a major insect pest in California cotton (Lygus hesperus). In collaboration with Jay Rosenheim (UC Davis), he found stage and sex-dependent differences in feeding behavior that translated into differences in flower bud abscission.