Gail McCormick

PhD Candidate


Office: Mueller Laboratory, room 508

Phone: 814.867.2252


Curriculum Vitae







Research Interests


An organism’s ability to respond to stressors is integral to its survival and reproductive fitness.  The physiological stress response is generally adaptive. For example, the production of glucocorticoid hormones, including corticosterone (CORT), can help maintain homeostasis, trigger survival-enhancing behavior, and prepare an organism for subsequent exposure to threats. However, chronic stress, such as that elicited by frequent encounters with predators, can divert energy from other important processes, such as immune function, growth, and reproduction. I am interested in the consequences of chronic stress and if these consequences differ between populations that have evolved in high- and low-stress environments.


I utilize Eastern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus) and invasive fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) to investigate these costs of the stress response. Because hormones interact in complex cascades, I often measure and/or manipulate both CORT and the sex steroid testosterone (T) in my research. These hormones are generally inversely correlated and may influence relationships with other processes.

Questions I am currently investigating include:

· Does life history influence how stress affects             immune function?

· Does stress induce high levels of parasite            infection?

· Does stress reduce selection on secondary            sexual characteristics in lizards

· Are monogyne and polygyne colonies of fire ants equally stressful to fence lizards?

I am also very interested in effective methods of communicating science to the (adult) public. Although there has been a recent push toward scientific and environmental awareness, the memorable notions of “going green,” “global warming” and “fighting invasive species” are incredibly incomplete. Such naive views of science among the general public can lead to costly endeavors, such as community groups physically removing invasive cane toads in Australia though no scientific evidence is available to suggest this is an effective means of population control (Shine & Doody 2011). Additionally, in spite of support from thousands of peer-reviewed articles, the debate over evolution continues, and only 28% of high school Biology teachers in the United States advocated teaching evolutionary biology in 2007 (Berkman & Putzer 2011). A knowledgeable pubic can better engage with pertinent scientific issues, and I hope to pursue new and innovative ways to communicate ecological research to the adult public through my graduate career and beyond.





McCormick, Gail L., T. Langkilde. Immune responses of Eastern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus) to repeated acute elevation of corticosterone. (Under Review).

Thawley, Christopher J.,
G.L. McCormick and S.P. Graham. 2013. Geographic distribution: Crotalus horridus  (Timber rattlesnake). Herpetological Review. 44(4): 628.

Thawley, Christopher J.,
G.L. McCormick, S.P. Graham. 2013. Geographic Distribution: Heterodon platirhinos (eastern hog-nosed snake). Herpetological Review 44 (3): 476.

Thawley, Christopher J.,
G.L. McCormick, S.P. Graham. 2013. Geographic Distribution: Opheodrys aestivus (rough green snake). Herpetological Review 44 (3): 477.

Stuble, Katharine L., M.A. Rodriguez-Cabal,
G.L. McCormick, R.R. Dunn, N.J. Sanders. 2013 Tradeoffs, competition, and coexistence in eastern deciduous forest ant communities. Oecologia 171(4): 981-992.

Graham, Sean P., N.A. Freidenfelds,
G.L. McCormick, T. Langkilde. 2012. The impacts of invaders: Basal and acute stress glucocorticoid profiles and immune function in native lizards threatened by invasive ants. General and Comparative Endocrinology 176(3): 400-408.  









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