Gila Monsters
Field Site

Team DeNardo

Karla Moeller

B.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. 2005. University of California at Santa Cruz.

Research Interests

I am currently interested in how an animalís physiology changes throughout its life history, and how these changes affect the sensitivity of the animal to environmental challenges. Particulary, I am interested in how such altered sensitivity may favor different behavioral strategies.

Current Work

I am investigating how differences in size, physiological tolerance, and physiological buffering capability between adult and juvenile Gila monsters alter their potential tolerance of and response to environmental variation. The Gila monster, Heloderma suspectum, found in the Sonoran Desert, uses physiological adaptations (e.g., reabsorption of water from urinary bladder, fat storage in tail) and behavioral adjustments (e.g., temporal plasticity of activity) as adults to mitigate seasonal hydric and energy constraints. Juvenile Gila monsters receive no parental care and emerge from their nests during the seasonal drought when water is scarce. Despite superficial similarities, juveniles may possess a relatively limited buffering ability against environmental constraints, and consequently may rely heavily on behavioral tactics to survive. To understand how ontogenetic differences alter susceptibility to environmental constraints and thereby affect juvenile survival strategies, I have been examining physiological differences in hydric costs, energetic costs, and thermal dynamics. I am exploring whether these physiological differences result in varied sensitivity to the most pressing challenges that are characteristic of desert environments: limited (or highly variable) resource availability and high diurnal temperatures. Finally, I am investigating whether this varied sensitivity alters the behavioral strategies of juvenile Gila monsters.

Past Research

As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, I worked on several research projects in Barry Sinervoís lab, including a project which used the California mountain kingsnake as a model to investigate the evolutionary trade-off between thermoregulation and mimicry. More recently, I helped with desert tortoise population monitoring in Nevada, and assisted with a study of damselflies in Sweden which focused on predator-mediated natural selection.

Email karla.moeller@asu.edu

Curriculum Vitae

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