Jen Moss, Ph.D.

The centralizing theme of my research so far has been understanding why natural populations persist across ecological and evolutionary time scales. I tend to approach this question through the lens of social behavior, asking how animals’ experience of their surrounding environment shapes, and is in turn shaped by, interactions among individuals. Tackling these questions requires me to reach across disciplines. Where the mature field of behavioral ecology provides theoretical foundations for understanding why patterns of social organization have evolved, novel applications of functional genomics approaches can provide insight into how animals are able to vary their behavioral expression across environments. My research seeks to integrate these ultimate and proximate mechanisms to better understand how rapid environmental changes could reshape future evolutionary trajectories.

While the projects that attract me are first and foremost question-driven, the systems I have worked with most intimately in the past are lizards. During my PhD, I studied rock iguanas in the Cayman Islands, and then took up a 6-month Fellowship in Tasmania testing the effects of climate on family-living skinks. Switching it up, my current postdoc is all about insects. Under the mentorship of Allen Moore, I am developing a project examining the interplay between temperature and family dynamics in a subsocial carrion beetle (Nicrophorus orbicollis). Taking advantage of the system’s experimental tractability, I will interrogate potential behavioral, genomic, and social mechanisms of evolutionary rescue. Specifically, I will be developing and testing novel hypotheses regarding the environmental contingency of indirect genetic effects in driving rapid evolution. In addition, I am collaborating with Trish Moore and Emily Shelby to develop targets for sublethal RNAi-based pest management solutions.

Publications [Google Scholar]

  • Climate change as a catalyst of social evolution. JB Moss, G While. EcoEvoRxiv PDF
  • Conditional female strategies influence hatching success in a communally nesting iguana. JB Moss, GP Gerber, T Laaser, M Goetz, TV Oyog, ME Welch. Ecology and Evolution 10 (7), 3424-3438 PDF
  • Evidence for dominant males but not choosy females in an insular rock iguana. JB Moss, GP Gerber, A Schwirian, AC Jackson, ME Welch. Behavioral Ecology 30 (1), 181-193 PDF
  • Heterozygosity–Fitness Correlations Reveal Inbreeding Depression in Neonatal Body Size in a Critically Endangered Rock Iguana. JB Moss, GP Gerber, ME Welch. Journal of Heredity 110 (7), 818-829 PDF
  • Contrasting patterns of movement across life stages in an insular iguana population. JB Moss, GP Gerber, M Goetz, JE Haakonsson, JC Harvey, T Laaser, …Journal of Herpetology 54 (1), 67-77 PDF
  • First evidence for crossbreeding between invasive Iguana iguana and the native rock iguana (Genus Cyclura) on Little Cayman Island. JB Moss, ME Welch, FJ Burton, MV Vallee, EW Houlcroft, T Laaser, …Biological invasions 20 (4), 817-823 PDF