I am interested in the genetics and evolution of behavior, especially within-population variation in behavior. Social behavior, in particular, represents an exciting opportunity to study developmental and evolutionary feedbacks because the social environment itself can change and evolve. Learning, our other main focus, represents a powerful and common mechanism by which animals change their behavior, but the evolution of learning is still poorly understood. These areas of focus illustrate how population-genetic variation is orchestrated by a complex interplay between genetic variation and experience in the environment. To answer these questions, I draw inspiration from, and work to integrate, animal behavior, psychology, evolutionary ecology, and genetics.
I completed my A.B. at Princeton University, my PhD with Andy Sih in the Population Biology Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis, and my postdoc with Sergey Nuzhdin at the University of Southern California. My full CV is here.
I teach Animal Behavior (BIOS 321) and a variety of undergraduate research courses (BIOS 310, 401, NEUR 310, etc). I participate in teaching in the Graduate Student Core Course (BIOS 569) and other graduate courses (BIOS 541, 561, 801). I am a Faculty Affiliate for the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (CSWGS) and a member of the School of Natural Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leadership group.
Gihan graduated with a Bsc from University of Colombo in Sri Lanka. He is interested in the interplays between behavioral plasticity and evolutionary genomics. He joined the lab in Fall 2023.
My research focuses on how differences in individual social preference and group composition influences whether animals fall for traps, and how this could lead to the rapid evolution of social traits. In the Saltz lab, I am using fruit flies falling for a common evolutionary trap (i.e., apple cider vinegar traps) to identify how a trap could cause the evolution of social behavior and other correlated traits.
I received my PhD from the University of California, Davis in 2021 before joining the lab as an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biology.
My research primarily explores how individuals make decisions on how to with conspecifics. By using Drosophila melanogaster as a study system, I can incorporate genotypic variation into my investigation of how individuals interpret, produce, and use social signals to inform their own social behaviors, in addition to investigating the evolutionary feedbacks created by social information use on population-level processes. I received my B.S. in Biology with a minor in Genetics from Texas A&M University in 2018 before joining the Saltz Lab in 2019.
Patricia graduated from Rice in 2023 and is now leading a large project investigating GxE for social behaviors
Research interests include sniffing, shedding an unbelievable amount, telling everyone her feelings, and being a Good Girl.
Anna graduated from Rice in 2021 and orchestrated a large scale project to study the evolution of aggression. She is now a research scientist in Yijie Geng's lab at University of Washington.
My research addresses how interactions between natural selection and social selection shape the structure and evolution of social groups. Integrating quantitative genetics, social network theory, nutritional geometry, and the genetic tools available with the Drosophila melanogaster study system, I seek to understand how ecological forces interact with social behaviors, to shape the social environment individuals experience. I received my B.S. from the University of Virginia in 2013, joined the Saltz Lab at Rice in 2015, and advanced to PhD candidacy in 2017.
now in medical school!
My research focuses on how and why variation in learning exists between and within species - particularly how differences in individual environmental experience combine with differences in the neural mechanisms of memory and recall to produce variation in learning ability. Through comparison of the model organisms D. sechellia and D. simulans, I am seeking to increase understanding of the genetic basis of variation in learning - coupling learning assays with quantitative genetics approaches. I received my B.S. in Biology from Texas A&M in 2012 and worked in industry before joining the Saltz lab in 2016, earning her PhD in 2021. Now, Madeline is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Hongjie Li lab at Baylor College of Medicine.