Maria StagerPostdoctoral Researcher


I am broadly interested in understanding how organisms respond to changes in their environment. Most of my research focuses on the evolutionary and physiological mechanisms that allow birds, in particular, to cope with temperature fluctuations. To do this, I combine field studies and laboratory acclimations to generate genomic, transcriptomic, and physiological datasets. The majority of my work has centered on the Dark-eyed Junco, a common songbird with a broad North American distribution. My previous work has demonstrated that junco populations differ in their ability to physiologically respond to ambient temperature changes, with populations from more variable thermal environments exhibiting a greater magnitude of phenotypic change than do populations from locations with more stable temperatures year-round. Across their range, juncos also show genetic variation associated with temperature variability. As a postdoc in the Taylor lab, I will be using whole genome and transcriptomic sequencing to tease apart the genetic basis of differences in junco physiological flexibility. Taken together, this work will provide a mechanistic understanding of the ability of natural populations to respond and adapt to environmental fluctuations.