Dr. Brian G. Walker
Associate Professor of Biology
o: Bannow Science Center Rm 221
B.A., Drake University
M.Sc., Dalhousie University, Canada
Ph.D., University of Washington
Current Research Interests
I am interested in how animals adapt - physiologically - to different environments. Specifically, I focus on how anthropogenic (aka human) disturbances affect the stress physiology of free-living animals. I measure changes in glucocorticoids stress hormones as indicators of how well animals are dealing with their environments - a rather new discipline called "environmental endocrinology." While behavioral consequences of human perturbations are well documented in ecological studies - less attention focuses on the internal physiological changes that animals must make in order to successfully adapt to disturbed environments (or fail to make and thus do not adapt). Physiological consequences of disturbances are important, for patterns of behavior responses do not always exemplify internal changes in homeostasis. So, while certain species may outwardly "appear" to do well in human-disturbed locations, might there be internal effects - which are much more difficult to measure - that could be negatively affecting their lives? These "masked" physiological effects might be particularly pertinent, as there is mounting support for the idea that physiological costs of current disturbances may not be manifest until much later is life.
Here at Fairfield University, we have initiated a number of studies examining human disturbance effects on wildlife – mostly birds. My students and I have done studies on Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) and house sparrows (Paser domesticus) here in Connecticut. Additionally, I am very involved in Latin American issues, and have conducted studies in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica, looking at how birds are dealing with human disturbance activities. Most recently, I have begun a significant collaboration with researchers at the Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense (UENF) in Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil (4 hours north east of Rio de Janiero). I will be spending the 2012-2013 academic year in Brazil on a Fulbright Fellowship, working on research issues of stress physiology in Golden Lion Tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia), Common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), and a neat little bird called the green Saltator (Saltator similis). I am excited that 4 Fairfield University biology majors will be with me for a full semester in Brazil – getting hands on research experience on these projects. You could be the next!!!!
Finally, following from my PhD research on Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus), I continue to collaborate with researchers in Argentina on issues of penguin conservation, and remain an active participant in research and collaborative advice on issues of Penguin Biology.
- BI 213: Endocrinology
- BI 296: Special Topics in Biology
- BI 313: Comparative Physiology
- BI 318: Vertebrate Zoology
- BI 382: SpecTopSem:Reprod Tactics