Research in my lab focuses on how motor output is structured by precise sensory input. To do so, we study the flight control circuitry of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. By studying these questions in Drosophila, we can leverage the powerful genetic toolkit available for the mapping, imaging, and manipulation of neural circuits. The lab directs its attention on structures that are unique to flies, known as the halteres, which act as dual-function gyroscopes that help structure the wingstroke. We take an integrative approach, combining in vivo imaging, muscle physiology, and behavior.
Faculty Research Area: Neurobiology & Behavior
Dr. Brian Kyle Taylor is the Principal Investigator for the Quantitative Biology and Engineering Sciences (QBES – pronounced “cubes”) laboratory. Broadly, his lab aims to use engineering and mathematics to advance the knowledge-base and understanding of biology and animal behavior, while simultaneously leveraging the design principles observed in biology to enhance and expand the engineer’s toolkit. In particular, his lab currently studies animal magnetoreception and multimodal navigation (i.e., how animals get from point A to point B using the earth’s magnetic field alongside other sensory cues). Dr. Taylor’s lab employs tools such as computer simulations, mobile robots, tethered robots, and motion capture to advance the cutting edge in both the understanding of animal navigation, and the development of autonomous navigation systems.
Macrophages are highly dynamic and widespread blood cells that play many important functions in vertebrates. They are the main phagocytes throughout the body, responsible for clearing away dying cells, damaged tissue, and pathogens, to maintain tissue integrity. Macrophages circulate in the bloodstream as monocytes or are stationed in strategic locations of the body as tissue macrophages where their phagocytic roles are critical, such as microglia in the brain, Kupffer cells in the liver, Langerhans cells in the skin, and osteoclasts in the bone.
Of particular interest are the normal roles and mechanisms of macrophages and microglia in the development and maintenance of the nervous system that remain far less understood than their functions in disease and injury. In the healthy brain, microglia have been implicated in shaping brain circuitry and neuronal development as well as in possibly affecting behavioral outcomes. They have unique embryonic origins from primitive macrophages that migrate into the brain and remain thereafter through life. These versatile glial cells provide the first line of defense and respond to a wide variety of environmental factors, such as protein aggregates, apoptotic cells, injured tissue, and pathogens, as well as to intracellular dysfunctions. Overall, the developmental process by which macrophages take residence and differentiate into tissue macrophages, and the contribution of macrophages to normal animal development remain not well understood. We are addressing these two fundamental areas of macrophage biology in the context of how macrophages participate in the nervous system.
My research has focused on field studies of complex social behavior by birds and other animals. Topics have included long-range vocal communication by temperate and tropical birds, vocal communication in noisy conditions (colonies, choruses, rainforests), sexual conflict and monogamy in territorial birds, sexual selection in polygynous mating systems and leks, site-specific dominance in wintering birds, and cooperative breeding in tropical wrens.
Continuing themes in all of these studies are age-dependent behavior, recognition of individuals, and impacts of noise on communication. My goal is to understand the complexity of animal social behavior … especially communication.
Facilities for this research include up-to-date equipment for recording, display, and synthesis of acoustic signals. My students, postdoctoral associates, and I have conducted field research both locally and far afield, including throughout the American tropics.
For more information, including publications, see http://rhwiley.bio.unc.edu.
Our lab group is interested in the behavior, sensory biology, neuroethology, and conservation of marine animals. Topics of particular interest include: (1) the navigation of long-distance ocean migrants such as sea turtles, salmon, spiny lobsters, and elephant seals; (2) magnetic field perception, magnetic maps, and use of the Earth’s magnetic field in animal navigation; (3) natal homing and the geomagnetic imprinting hypothesis in sea turtles and salmon; (4) applications of sensory ecology and movement ecology to conservation biology; (5) neurobiology, behavior, and physiology of marine invertebrates; (6) marine ecosystems and animal health in the Galapagos Islands. Techniques used range from electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and electrophysiology to behavioral studies, oceanographic modeling, and field studies in the ocean. Whenever possible, we favor innovative approaches that cut across traditional academic boundaries and combine elements from disparate fields.
Our lab group is interested in the sensory biology, behavior, neuroethology, and evolution of marine animals. Topics of particular interest include: (1) the navigation of long-distance ocean migrants such as sea turtles, salmon, and spiny lobsters; (2) magnetic field perception, magnetic maps, and use of the Earth’s magnetic field in animal navigation; (3) natal homing and the geomagnetic imprinting hypothesis in sea turtles and salmon; (4) applications of sensory ecology and movement ecology to conservation biology; (5) neurobiology, behavior, and physiology of marine invertebrates; (6) technoethology (the use of novel computer and electronic technology to study behavior). Techniques used range from electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and electrophysiology to behavioral studies, oceanographic modeling, and field studies in the ocean. Whenever possible, we favor innovative approaches that cut across traditional academic boundaries and combine elements from disparate fields.
Reproductive decisions are basic to all organisms. For species with multiple offspring and parental care, the decisions can be complex, but they still revolve around the same fundamental questions: when, where, and with whom to reproduce and how to invest in offspring. These decisions invariably have important life-history implications on future reproduction, on the offspring themselves, and on fitness.
Using birds, the Sockman lab studies the causes and consequences of reproductive decisions. Birds are an excellent system for this topic, because their decisions are often easy to observe and apply across a broad range of taxa and habitats. Follow the links above to learn more about our program or, if you are a prospective student, to learn about joining the lab.
If you want to list me as a reference or need a letter of recommendation, please use this guide from the UNC Biology Department website and include in your e-mail to me a PDF file of this document filled out and signed by you. Please see my laboratory website for other information.
At a Glance
Environment-dependent behavior, hybridization, mating behavior evolution, sexual selection, speciation and species distributions.
The overarching goal of my research is to understand how behavior drives the origins and distribution of biodiversity. Because mate choice is a potent selective force that can be critical in the formation of novel phenotypes and new species, I focus on the evolution of mating behavior and its role in ecological and evolutionary processes. I work with natural populations and use a variety of approaches ranging from behavioral experiments to genetic analyses. For more details, including references, please go to my lab website.
I’m broadly interested in the interplay among evolution, ecology, and development. My current research focuses on three main topics.
First, I study the causes and consequences of a common feature of development: its tendency to be responsive to changes in the environment. Although biologists have long known that an individual organism’s appearance, behavior, and physiology can be modified by its environmental conditions, the implications of such developmental (or phenotypic) plasticity for ecology and evolution remain poorly understood. Moreover, the underlying genetic and developmental mechanisms that foster plasticity’s evolution are unclear. I seek to understand the impacts of plasticity on diversification and evolutionary innovation, as well as how and why plasticity arises in the first place.
Second, I study the role of competition in generating and maintaining biodiversity. I’m particularly interested in unravelling whether and how competition promotes trait evolution and the impacts of any such evolution on the formation of new traits and new species.
Finally, I study a striking form of convergent evolution known as Batesian mimicry, which evolves when a palatable species co-opts a warning signal from a dangerous species and thereby deceives its potential predators. Such instances of “life imitating life” provide an ideal opportunity to assess natural selection’s efficacy in promoting adaptation.
For more details on my lab and research, please visit my lab page by clicking on the link above.