Stickleback Research

at Clark University

News from the Laboratory

March 14, 2010

Daniella Swenton has just accepted a position as Visiting Assistant Professor at Clark University. She will step in for Justin Thackeray who will be on sabbatical leave, and will thus teach a portion of Biology 102, Genetics (Biology 118) and a new course in Population Genetics (Biology 225/325).

March 3, 2010

Sophie Valena (09) has just been accepted as a Ph.D. student in the Evolution, Ecology and Behavior Program in the Department of Biology, Indiana University, begining in the Fall Semester of 2010. This is an excellent program and was her first choice. She not only received full support, but because of her outstanding record, she was selected to receive a Departmental Semester Fellowship, which includes a stipend of $12,000 for a 6 month period. This fellowship is designed specifically to freeing students from teaching in their second semester, letting them focus on launching their dissertation research. Go Sophie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

January 15, 2010

Daniella Swenton has just joined the Foster/Baker Laboratory in a post-doctoral position. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont and conducted her Ph.D. research at the University of New Mexico on the ecological and behavioral maintenance of speciation in mosquitofish. She is teaching Conservation Biology at Clark this spring and we are happy to welcome her to the department!

December 09

Rachel Chock, Masters graduate '08 has accepted a competitive NSF-funded research position in Chile that will begin in June 2010. She will be conducting research with Dr. Loren Hayes from University of Louisiana, Monroe and Dr. Luis Ebensperger from Universidad de Catolica in Santiago, Chile. The researches focuses on social behavior in degus (Octodon degus), and her personal research focus will be on allonursing by this mammal in the lab and the field. This is an exceptionally exciting opportunity.

May 2008

Prof. Susan Foster has been appointed to the newly established Warren Litsky Endowed Chair in Biology. This chair is established through a bequest gift from the estate of Warren Litsky, who graduated from Clark University in 1945. Susan joined the Clark University faculty in 1995. She was appointed chair of the department in 2005 and promoted to full professor in 2006. She is an evolutionary biologist and her research on stickleback fish is currently funded by a major grant from the National Science Foundation.

Her funded research has created wonderful opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to work in her laboratory here in Worcester as well as in the field in Alaska. Susan is a major contributor to the teaching program in biology and the new environmental science major. She also was a leader in the university's successful Keck grant proposal to redesign biology courses around an inquiry-based pedagogy. Currently she serves the university as chair of the faculty Planning and Budget Review Committee. Read more about Susan

PhD student Justin Golub has won two prestigious awards to support his work with Susan Foster and John Baker.

One award was $1,500 from the American Museum of Natural History Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant. The AMNH Roosevelt grant is designed to aid graduate research on the natural history and conservation of North American fauna.

The second award was $1,000 from the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Raney Fund. Set up in honor of Edward C. Raney, the award is designed to aid in graduate research in ichthyology (fish studies).

Both awards will support Justin's summer research on embryonic learning in threespine stickleback. Read more about Justin

Fifth-year master's student Rachel Chock successfully defended her thesis titled "Re-emergence of ancestral plasticity and the loss of a rare limnetic phenotype in an Alaskan population of threespine stickleback," and walked in commencement ceremonies May 18.

Rachel studied the effects of human-induced environmental change on the behavior of a unique population of stickleback in Lynne Lake, Alaska.

After graduation she will be spending part of the summer doing fieldwork with pronghorn in Montana and the rest working at Lake George in New York helping to remove invasive milfoil. In the next year she is planning to spend time traveling and working in Australia and Southeast Asia, and wants to continue to be involved with conservation and animal behavior. Read more about Rachel

October 2007

The NESCent working group, spearheaded by Dr. David Lahti at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and co-organized by Susan, has been encouraged to submit a review manuscript to Nature on the topic of Relaxed Selection and Trait Loss: Patterns and Processes. As David indicated in transmitting this information to the working group members, Devo Rocks!

Susan becomes coordinating editor for North American submissions to Ethology, a journal for which she has served as one of three North American editors for five years. She is looking forward to understanding the full range of North American submissions to the journal.


Susan traveled to North Carolina State University to present a seminar entitled: Evolution of a model system: The adaptive radiation of threespine stickleback that was hosted by the W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology.  She had the opportunity to meet the very diverse and active group of faculty and students who comprise this group and had a wonderful visit.  Post-doctoral fellow Gissella Vasquez wrote a wonderful summary of the presentation and of Susan’s career in The Signal, a monthly newsletter for the W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology.

Susan becomes one of 18 action editors for Animal Behaviour, and is looking forward to this new editorial challenge. Action editors handle manuscripts for review.  The journal is published by Elsevier for the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour and the Animal Behavior Society.  It was first published in the year Susan was born (which makes it way old and, of course, respectable ...)

Shlomit Klopman becomes a Ph.D. student in the laboratory and FIVE long-term undergrads become fifth-year master’s students in our laboratory! These are Lauren Ackein, Rachel Chock, Katherine O’Brien, Jignasha Rana, and Karyn Robert. Umpteen undergraduates also become active in the laboratory and soon will be featured here.



Susan attends a working group meeting at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). The working group, entitled “Relaxed Selection and Trait Loss”, was organized by David Lahti, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Susan.


A large laboratory contingent attended the Animal Behavior meeting in Burlington, Vermont. Susan, Justin and Matt presented papers. Rachel presented a poster with support from a Charles Henry Turner Award from the Animal Behavior Society. Katherine Shaw (visiting student scholar at Clark and Ph.D. student at the University of Connecticut, Storrs) and Jignasha were both present at the meeting as well.

Most stickleback folk are back in the lab. The exception is Anna Mazzarella (‘09) who is attending the Stanford University Stickleback Molecular Genetics course the first two weeks of July. All of her costs while at Stanford were covered by NIH funding, and her travel costs were covered by Clark University. Anna describes the course as “awesome.” Anna at Stanford, right.



Part of the British Columbia field contingent (Susan, Justin, Karyn and Natasha and Rachel) travel to Alaska, Mickey returns to Santa Barbara, and Dianne, Brendan head back to Massachusetts. Anna and Jana join them. All return from Alaska later in June after a very long field season. Throughout, John, Katie and Craig hold up the fish rearing effort.

High on the excitement profile was a small plane flight David Critchlow (’08) took with pilot Scott Christy to explore lakes that had not yet been sampled for stickleback.


The Great Departure month. Susan, Brendan, Dianne, Karyn and Rachel fly to British Columbia where they are joined by Natasha Kelly, a graduate student at Yale University, and Mickey Rowe, a collaborator on vision/color research from the University of California Santa Barbara. Matt, David, Jignasha and Lauren head for Alaska.

Val Locker (’09) departs for Juneau Alaska, to participate in a National Science Foundation funded REU (research experiences for undergraduates) program studying those other vertebrates, sea birds.


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