George A. Lozano - Research

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Of course, the most interesting work is still to come, so it would be unwise to be too candid in this forum. So far, my research has included theory and empiricism, in behaviour, life history, physiology, toxicology, and morphology. More specifically, I have conducted research along the following lines:

Sexual Selection is the unifying theme of nearly all my work, so I will just include here some projects that do not fit neatly into the other categories. My latest work includes a paper on the origin and evolution of multiple sexual signals, another on an evolutionary explanation for anorexia nervosa, and a commentary on the sex differences in the expression of emotion. Another one is in progress, about sexually selected neoteny in humans.

 

Immunoecology and Alternative Reproductive Strategies (Simon Fraser University . . . ).- I have worked mostly on condition-, season-, morph- and age-dependent changes in immunocompetence in the ruff, a species with 3 genetically distinct types of males with different breeding and life history strategies.

    First, we (Lozano and Lank 2004) tested whether satellites spend more on self maintenance and hence have stronger immune responses than independents. However, contrary to the hypothesis, independents had higher CMI responses than satellites. In contrast, during the non-breeding season there were no differences in CMI between the morphs, despite the larger sample size (28 vs. 51 males respectively - Lozano & Lank, 2003). The conclusion of these studies was that energetic constraints best explain seasonal differences, but during the breeding season, differences in immunity between independents and satellites depend on their potential exposure to injuries. These two alternatives were tested in a subsequent study (Lozano et al 2013) that also included the newly discovered female mimicking male morph. The results supported the risk-of-injury hypothesis over the energetic constrains hypothesis and placed female mimics in an immunological continuum between independents and satellites. Another paper, with Albert Ros, is forthcoming, dealing wiht immunity in species with alternative reproductive strategies and tactics.

Collaborators: Drs. David B. Lank, Albert Ros and Brianne Addison.
 

Research Assessment, Policy and Ethics (Estonian Centre of Evolutionary Ecology).- Like most scientists, I am often confused and mystified by the decisions of hiring and granting committees. Unlike most scientists, I decided to put my thoughts on paper. Whereas this work might seem like a completely separate research interest, it is not. That is the beauty of evolutionary ecology, the broad applicability.

    My “impact per dollar” paper is a cost-benefit analysis. What are the costs of producing science? what are the benefits? and how research policies can be used to maximize the cost-effectiveness of our taxes? My “decline of the impact factor” paper arose from a simple behavioural observation: now we read papers, not journals. The implication was that the relationship between paper and journal quality had to be weakening. It turns out I was right. A follow-up paper is based on the same logic but looks only at elite journals over the past 20 years. Other papers address multi-authorship and are essentially studies on resource partitioning. The first one (Lozano 2013) addresses problems with the fact that in the current system, the cost to adding more authors to a paper are negligible, but being added as an author has tangible benefits. The second one (Lozano 2014) addresses the problem of ghost authorship that occurs when internet services are used to "correct", or actually co-write, heavily multi-authored papers. The third one (in progress) demonstrates that when revenues have to be divided among authors, authorship is justified, but when it is merely about free authorship, the system is openly abused. Judging by the excitement these papers are generating, it is clear that your average evolutionary ecologist has much to contribute to other, seemingly disparate areas of research.

Collaborators: Drs. Vincent Larivière and Yves Gingras.

Carotenoids, immunity and sexual selection (McGill....).- In 1994, incorporating the fact that carotenoids also stimulate immune function, I proposed a novel idea: that carotenoid-dependent ornaments actually indicate health and immune condition, and that is why they are used by females to select mates. My hypothesis has led to a large body of work, including several graduate theses, which confirm the predictions I made in 1994. Despite the widespread interest, several research avenues remain open.

Foraging behaviour (UWO, McGill, UC Riverside . . . ).- I have always been interested on the effects of increased costs and risks (for example, from parasitism) on foraging behaviour. In 1991 I produced a paper indicating the ways in which parasitism could affect foraging behaviour. This was followed by a book chapter, which I started at McGill and completed at UCR, reviewing the idea of and evidence for self medication in animals. More recently, I produced a paper on multiple sexual signals that started with ideas from marketing economics and foraging theory.

Immunoenergetics of toxicity (Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre).- I co-ordinated a study of the effects of methyl mercury on the reproduction of American Kestrels. As a side project, I conducted a study on the effects of sub-lethal levels of mercury on immune function and metabolic rates. Several papers resulted from this side project, several years after I left.

Immunity and parental care (Simon Fraser University).- During my post-doc I completed an experiment with tree swallows demonstrating that nestlings can actually benefit when their parents are immuno-stimulated just before reproducing. This work indicates parental immunity is transferred via the egg, and along with research indicating that females transfer hormones to their eggs, opens up a whole new area of research on parental effects.

 Sponsor: Dr. R. C. Ydenberg

 

Non-independent mate choice (McGill University).-  It has been argued that in some situations individuals may not choose mates independently, but rather copy the choices of other, presumably more experienced conspecifics. Using guppies, we unsuccessfully attempted to replicate what is still the clearest demonstration of mate choice copying.

Collaborators.- Drs. D. L. LaFleur (M.D.) and M. Sclafani (Ph.D.)

 

Parental care and female mate choice (McGill University).- The general theme of my Ph.D. thesis was to examine how parental care is regulated in a socially monogamous bi-parental system, taking into consideration external factors (e.g. food abundance) and intrinsic factors (how the two parents negotiate how much each provides) and the relative sexual attractiveness of the two parents. Here is a list of interesting papers on this topic. This work, using yellow warblers, consisted of experimental manipulations and behavioural observations in the field.

 Advisor: Dr. R. E. Lemon

 

Reproductive and population biology (McGill University).-Using our multi-year banding and breeding records from redstarts and yellow warblers, we examined the cumulative and independent effects of arrival time, prior residency, age and breeding experience on reproductive success.

Collaborators.- Dr. R. E. Lemon, and Stephane Perreault

 

Plumage, condition and territoriality (University of Western Ontario).- “Delayed plumage maturation” is said to occur when sexual maturation precedes the development of full adult plumage. Tree Swallows are the only North American species in which females, not males, have delayed plumage maturation. For my M.Sc. thesis I examined whether this alternative plumage is a strategy used by birds that are competitively inferior and/or in lower condition.

Supervisor: Dr. P. T. Handford

 

Other Work (that did not pan out, or was just for fun) In conjunction with Drs. Dill and Sharpe of Simon Fraser University/Alaska-BC Whale Foundation, I helped with the analysis of a study on the effects of simulated whale flippers on evasive behaviour by herring. Also at SFU, I worked on the effects of minor food restriction on immunocompetence using Tony Williams' zebra finches. At the UC, Riverside I conducted a pilot study on the effects of carotenoids on immune function, using wild chicken as a model system. At Western, with Drs. Merendino and Ankney, I participated on aerial (helicopter) waterfowl surveys aimed to determine the distribution and abundance of mallards and black ducks across Ontario. With the University of Georgia, I sampled small mammals and birds for ticks and other ectoparasites throughout Florida. With Michele Kuter of William and Mary, I briefly worked with a population of common and roseate terns in Falkner Island, CT. With Drs. Ratiste and Saks I spent a week on Gull Island, Estonia


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Last modified: February, 2016.