Shira D. Gordon, Ph.D.
Ph.D., 2010, University of Cincinnati, Biological Sciences
M.S., 2006, University of Georgia, Entomology
BA, 2002, University of Colorado,
Major: Environmental, Populational, Organismal Biology;
I have spent many years as a research biologist but am making the transition to Science Communication.
Please contact me directly if you would like to discuss opportunities with me; I am interested.
Explaining topics to the level of the audience is VERY important. In some cases that is using the cultivated scientific terms that pedantically mean a precise connotation. However, many times stories and analogies are better ways to express the ideas. It is not dumbing it down but instead speaking to the audience. I have several examples on this web page where I use nonscientific language to explain my research.
Here is a video I made that is part of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science 2018 Flame Challenge. The topic is “What is Climate” explained to 11-yr old students–and judged by them too!
General Research Interests
Insects and arthropods rule our natural world. In some cases we consider them pests or, conversely, in many cases beneficial animals. Learning about insect biology may benefit engineering, the medical field, or agricultural needs. My research focuses on animal communication and its plasticity due to environmental conditions. Specifically, I have focused on sound and vibrational signaling.
I approach my research from several angles interweaving fields such as animal physiology, behavior, neurobiology, biomechanics, evolution and genetics to understand how animals are enabled to survive in their niche.
My research addresses several broad questions:
- What environmental factors influence animal communication?
- How can an animal adjust its signaling to best fit the local conditions?
- What are the physiological flexibilities and constraints of an animal’s sensory biology?
- What evolutionary conditions have driven different and convergent hearing and vibration sensing systems?
- How can alternative methods (e.g., vibrational interference) control arthropods?
- What can engineers learn from insects to create better sensors, bio-engineering mimicry?
Animal communication is a dynamic process influenced by elements of the environment. I have studied some of the variations in the environment that may affect communication such as substrate for vibrational signaling, temperature during signaling, and neighbors—predators, competitors, or mates–that are nearby during signaling. In addition, I have studied intrinsic physiological factors affecting hearing such as differences in locusts phase (based on epigenetics) and their age.
By linking animals with their environment, I hope to tease apart the factors that shape animal communication. As insects have evolved hearing at least 19 independent times, each instance may inform about novel mechanisms and behaviors. By combining behavior, biomechanics, and neurophysiology I use integrative methods to answer my questions. My main work, thus far, spans leaf hoppers, moths, locusts, cicadas, wolf spiders, and parasitic wasps. I choose the animal that best suits my research questions and so prefer to adapt animal choice accordingly.