Image of faculty member, Brian Walker

Dr. Brian G. Walker

Associate Professor of Biology
o: NHS Rm 110B
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.  In 2012, I received a Fulbright Fellowship to spend seven months at the Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense (UENF), in Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, collaborating on research topics and teaching in areas of stress physiology.  Most recently, I have just returned from a three month field season back in Argentina (Sept – Dec, 2017), where I conducted a number of experimental manipulations further examining the effects of ecotourism on Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus).  In addition to this return to my “penguin roots,” I have begun a collaborative study with Dr. Catherine Andersen, also in the Biology Department at Fairfield, examining stress in one of the craziest species I have yet to work with…..the human.

Courses Taught

  1. BI 170: General Biology I Lab
  2. BI 172: General Biology III Lab
  3. BI 262L: Human Physiology Lab
  4. BI 296: Special Topics in Biology
  5. HS 399: Health Studies Capstone
  6. NS 670: HumanAnat&Phys/NrsAnesthetists

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