Graduate Student Seed Grant Projects

Staying healthy in a challenging world: the mechanisms underlying the effect of glucocorticoids on the response to avian malaria infection

Laura Schoenle, Biological Sciences; Faculty Mentors: Ignacio Moore, Biological Sciences and Fran Bonier, Queen’s University, Ontario


Red blood cells infected with avian malaria

Glucocorticoid hormones (often considered “stress hormones”) provide a mechanism for individuals to rapidly adjust their physiology and behavior to meet the challenges of a variable environment. The wide-ranging effects of glucocorticoids include alterations in immune function and the ability to repair tissue. Thus, glucocorticoids could facilitate a response to parasites that is optimized for the challenges faced by an individual.
We used an observational field study and a controlled experiment to test the role of glucocorticoids in mediating the response to the parasites that cause avian malaria in red-winged blackbirds ( Agelaius phoeniceus ). The Global Change Center seed grant is funding the lab work that will enable us to assess the affects of the hormones on the immune system.

Laura Schoenle receives EPA STAR Fellowship
Laura Schoenle arrives in Ontario for field season