Research in my laboratory addresses questions in the field of evolutionary ecology and environmental biology, and typically combines field work and laboratory studies. Current projects focus on two disciplines.
One of the major goals of my laboratory is to understand the geographic and evolutionary processes that affect and generate biological diversity, particularly in aquatic habitats. In North America, freshwater faunas are particularly vulnerable to ecological changes because of heavy manipulation of habitats by human activity. In addition, North America harbors a substantial majority of the world’s biodiversity in freshwater crayfish, many of which are considered to be species of conservation concern. Furthermore, biodiversity in this group is poorly understood, and species may be declining or even disappearing even before they have been fully documented. We are working to understand the ecological and evolutionary interactions among native and invasive species of crayfish in the northeastern United States, with the ultimate goal of predicting how these interactions will change future distributions and diversity in this group.
Another research goal is to understand how ecological and phylogenetic factors contribute to social evolution. In crayfish, females bear most of the costs of reproduction, and males compete with one another for status in a dominance hierarchy, but the role of sexual selection on the social evolution of these animals is not well understood. We use both field data and laboratory experiments, including genetic analysis of family relationships, to test hypotheses about social behavior in this taxon.
Professional Highlights & Honors
Singapore News Tribe, Malaysian Tribune, and LAO PDR News Gazette printed an article that included comments from Lauren Mathews, associate professor, Biology and Biotechnology, about a study finding that antidepressants in waterways can affect crayfish behavior and the food chain.