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Dana Hawley

2004 - 2005 CSIP Fellow

Research Interest:
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


My research interests span all aspects of ecology and evolutionary biology, but center on bird behavior and host-pathogen interactions. My graduate thesis examines how social behavior in house finches, a locally common bird species, impacts the dynamics of a bacterial pathogen. I am drawn to the study of host-pathogen interactions because they combine the visible world of the host with the microscopic realm of the pathogen, which pushes the imagination into the unseen. Host-pathogen interactions also make great tools for inquiry-based learning because they incorporate broad ecological and evolutionary principles, and they interest anyone who has ever been sick!
Using inquiry-based approaches, I hope to lead students in asking questions about how hosts and pathogens interact in the wild. As a complement to my own research, students could observe infected house finches at feeders (the bacteria causes visible eye symptoms) and test hypotheses about how this host and pathogen impact each other. Using petri dish experiments, students can study the evolution of antibiotic resistance hands on, and evaluate current medical policies to slow its impact. Other timely scientific issues, such as why pathogens decimate endangered species and why new pathogens such as SARS are so deadly, could be addressed through student research and discussion.
I am also interested in leading inquiry-based programs on general aspects of bird ecology, and I am eager to incorporate and expand educational materials from the Laboratory of Ornithology in these programs. Finally, I have a strong side interest in using the Museum of the Earth (Paleontological Research Institute, PRI) to develop inquiry-based projects on local geological history. The Finger Lakes area is rich in the history of life and the earth. Students could collect fossils in local gorges, learn how the gorges came to be, and examine and measure local fossils in the teaching collections at PRI in order to ask questions about how life, and the earth, has changed through time.





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