Resource availability follows seasonal cycles in environmental conditions. To align physiology and behavior with prevailing environmental conditions, seasonal animals integrate cues from the environment with their internal state. One of the systems animals use to integrate those cues is the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and its primary effector, glucocorticoid hormones. The HPA axis has wide-ranging effects on physiology and behavior and, in the context of a glucocorticoid stress response, is known to mediate tradeoffs between immediate survival and future fitness. The HPA axis also plays an important role in facilitating predictable life-history events. Variation in HPA axis activity has been reported in all vertebrates, often coordinating seasonal reproduction and possibly also transitions between life-history stages. My dissertation research used red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) to examine the role of the HPA axis in regulating seasonal life-history transitions, especially in females.

Dayger Forbes, Catherine Anne
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183 pages
Biology, Portland State University
Doctorate in Biology