Image of faculty member, Brian Walker

Dr. Brian G. Walker

Associate Professor of Biology
o: Bannow Science Center Rm 221
p: x3464


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 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 undertaken 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 have a deep love for Latin America (having spent 4 years in Argentina during my PhD), and have conducted studies in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica, looking at how birds are dealing with human disturbance activities.  I have continued research on penguins in Argentina, and, most recently, received a Fulbirght Fellowship to spend the fall of 2012 at the Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense (UENF), in Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, collaborating on research topics and teaching in areas of stress physiology.  Currently, I am working two separate collaborations with colleagues and graduate students from two nearby universities - UCONN and Fordham.  These collaborations look at issues of stress physiology in birds that are using urban stopover sites while migrating back and forth to breeding grounds (Fordham collaboration) and how stress physiology and thermal signatures might be correlated (UCONN collaboration).

Courses Taught

  1. BI 170: General Biology I Lab
  2. BI 172: General Biology III Lab
  3. BI 296: Special Topics in Biology
  4. NS 670: HumanAnat&Phys/NrsAnesthetists

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