Ben Vernasco, Ph.D.
My focus as an integrative organismal biologist revolves around exploring the causes and consequences of variation in fitness-related traits and behaviors. I combine molecular techniques and modern technologies to address ecological and evolutionary questions, in many cases examining connections between different levels of biological organization.
A major area of current research is on understanding the causes and consequences of variation in telomeres, the aglets of DNA, in a variety of ecological and evolutionary contexts. This includes studies examining how telomeres relate to migratory behavior and glucocorticoid physiology in nomadic finches (pine siskins, red crossbills) and the courtship behavior of Neotropical rainforest birds (manakins).
I also conduct research with the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station to understand and conserve birds found in the Northern Blue Mountain Region (Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman National Forests) by combining bioacoustics techniques and machine learning technologies. Viewed together, my research addresses applied questions related to the ecology and conservation of wildlife as well as fundamental questions examining organismal function.
I currently have two appointments, one at a small liberal arts college and the other at a US Federal Agency. Specifically, I am currently a Research Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Whitman College. I am also a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Adam Duarte at the Pacific Northwest Research Station.
I received my Bachelor's Degree in Applied Vertebrate Ecology from the Wildlife Department at Humboldt State University. I then conducted my doctoral research at Virginia Tech and was co-advised by Drs. Ignacio Moore and Brandt Ryder. Following my PhD, I conducted postdoctoral research in the lab of Dr. Heather Watts at Washington State University Pullman.