I study interactions between species, in particular those antagonistic interactions between animals and their parasites. I am interested in both proximate effects of parasitism (i.e. the costs of an infection and how hosts defend themselves) as well as its ultimate effects (i.e. how parasites shape the evolution and distribution of their hosts).
In the Clayton-Bush lab I am currently studying an introduced fly in the Galápagos Islands, Philornis downsi. The larvae of this fly live in the nests of birds and feed on the young, often killing them. My dissertation research is focused on how Galapagos mockingbirds (Mimus parvulus) are affected by P. downsi and under what environmental conditions they’re able to defend themselves against its parasitism.
We use an experimental field approach to compare the physiology and behavior of parasitized vs. non-parasitized birds.
My research is supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
In addition to field work in the Galapagos I have also studied the effects of blood parasites (Haemoproteus columbae) on homing ability of feral pigeons (Columba livia) in captivity.
After graduating in 2009 from Pomona College I worked with Jordan Karubian of Tulane University in northwestern Ecuador researching avian and mammalian seed dispersal of tropical palms. We studied how behavior of animal seed dispersals shapes the plant structure of tropical forests.
I have also worked with Chris Witt at the University of New Mexico studying diversification of Neotropical birds and their blood parasites and adaptations to high altitude in Andean birds.
In addition to research I’m enjoying learning and teaching at the U as well as exploring Utah’s fantastic wilderness.
Knutie, S.A., S.M. McNew, A.W. Bartlow, D.A. Vargas, D.H. Clayton. 2014 Darwin’s finches combat introduced nest parasites with fumigated cotton. Current Biology 24(9):R355–R356DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.058
Witt C.C., S.M McNew et al. Avian malaria diversity and abundance are linked to host species turnover on an Andean elevational gradient. In prep.