Professor of Biology
Biology/Environmental Science Department Chair
Department of Biology
15 Maywood St.
Worcester, MA 01610-1477
Office: #233; Lab: #253
Phone: (508) 793-7204
Ph.D. University of Washington, Seattle
B.S. University of Wisconsin, Madison
Current Research and Teaching
Since the last glacial maximum, the diminutive threespine stickleback fish has undergone a remarkable endemic radiation in freshwater lakes and streams in holoartic coastal regions. Freshwater populations, derived from the ancient marine threespine stickleback, have changed very rapidly in morphology, behavior and life history since invasion of the freshwater habitats created by glacial recession.We take advantage of this diversity to understand how evolution occurs, and to ask whether these classes of characters evolve in concert. Our research includes both field study in Alaska and Canada, and laboratory rearing studies that contribute to our understanding of the evolution of this unique group of fishes. Although most students elect to study the stickleback when working with our research group, our studies of behavioral evolution have incorporated other subjects, including both birds and dragonflies. We are now beginning to use molecular techniques to resolve evolutionary questions and to address unique aspects of the conservation biology of this and other adaptive radiations.
As Chair of the Department of Biology I advise many students, and teach somewhat less than other Biology Professors. I teach Evolution annually, and also have recently taught Introductory Biology, Animal Behavior and Conservation Biology. These courses cover my areas of specialization. To learn more about my research and teaching interests please visit our laboratory web site.
Bell, A.M., Foster, S.A., & Wund, M. (2013) Evolutionary perspectives on personality in stickleback fish. InAnimal Personalities: Behavior, Physiology, and Evolution. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp36-65.
Susan Foster & Andy Sih, guest eds. In press. Behavioural Plasticity and Evolution. Special Issue of Animal Behaviour.
Jutta Schneider and Susan Foster, editors-in-chief. Ethology: International Journal of Behavioural Biology
Foster, S.A. and Endler, J.A. (eds.) 1999. Geographic Variation in Behavior; Perspectives on Evolutionary Mechanisms. Oxford University Press.
Bell, M.A. and S.A. Foster (eds.) 1994. The Evolutionary Biology of the Threespine Stickleback. Oxford University Press, 555pp.
Sparkes, T.C., Rush, V., Kopp, D.A. & Foster, S.A. (2013). Reproductive success in a natural population of male three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus: effects of nuptial colour, parasites and body size. Journal of Fish Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jfb.12083
Hughes, L.C., Foster, S.A., & Baker, J.A. (submitted). Can ecotypic differences in male courtship behavior be explained by visual cues provided by female threespine stickleback?
Foster, S.A. (in press). Evolution of behavioural phenotypes: influences of ancestry and expression. Special issue of Animal Behavior, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.02.008.
Wund, M.A., J.A. Baker, B. Clancy, J.L. Golub and S.A. Foster 2008. A test of the ‘flexible stem’ model of evolution: ancestral plasticity, genetic accommodation, and morphological divergence in the threespine stickleback radiation. American Naturalist, in press.
Foster, S.A., K.A. Shaw, K.L. Robert and J.A. Baker 2008. Benthic, limnetic and oceanic threespine stickleback: Profiles of reproductive behavior. Behaviour 145:485-508.
Baker, J.A., D.C. Heins, S.A. Foster and R.W. King 2008. An overview of life-history variation in female threespine stickleback: Patterns, scales and trait integration. Behaviour 145: 579-602.Shaw, K.A., M.L. Scotti and S.A. Foster. 2007. Ancestral plasticity and the evolutionary diversification of courtship behaviour in threespine stickleback. Animal Behaviour, 73:415-422.
Scotti, M.L. and S.A. Foster. 2007. Phenotypic plasticity and the ecotypic differentiation of aggressive behavior in threespine stickleback. Ethology 113:190-198.
Foster, S. A. and J.A. Baker. 2004. Evolution in parallel: new insights from a classic system. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 19, 456-459.
Foster, S.A., J.A. Baker and M.A. Bell. 2003. The case for conserving threespine stickleback populations: Protecting an adaptive radiation. Fisheries 28:10-18.
Luttbeg B., M.C. Towner, A. Wandesforde-Smith, M. Mangel and S.A. Foster. 2001. State-dependent mate assessment and mate selection behavior in female threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Ethology 107:545-558.
Scott, R.J., and S.A. Foster. 2000. Field data do not support a textbook example of convergent character displacement. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Ser. B. 267:1-6.
Foster, S.A. 1999. The geography of behavior: An Evolutionary Perspective. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 44:190-195.
Ness, J. and S.A. Foster. 1999. Parasite-associated phenotype modifications in threespine stickleback. Oikos 85:127-134.
Foster, S.A., R.J. Scott and W.A. Cresko. 1998. Nested biological variation and speciation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B. 353:207-218.
Foster, S.A., W.A. Cresko, K.P. Johnson, M.U. Tlusty, and H.E. Willmott. 1996. Patterns of homoplasy in behavioral evolution. Pp. 245-269 in: Homoplasy and the Evolutionary Process. M.J. Sanderson and L. Hufford (eds.). Academic Press, New York.
Foster, S.A. 1994. Inference of evolutionary pattern: diversionary displays of threespine stickleback. Behavioral Ecology 5:114-121.
Foster, S.A. and S.A. Ploch. 1990. Determinants of variation in antipredator behavior of territorial male threespine stickleback in the wild. Ethology 84:281-294.
Foster, S.A. 1989. The implications of divergence in spatial nesting patterns in the geminate Caribbean and Pacific sergeant major damselfishes. Animal Behavior 37: 465-476.
Foster, S.A. 1988. Diversionary displays of paternal sticklebacks: defenses against cannibalistic groups. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 22: 335-340.
Major Research Grants
2005: National Science Foundation (SAF P.I., J.A. Baker Co-PI). Ancestral Plasticity and Mating System Evolution in the Stickleback Radiation. Funding period January 1, 2005-December 31, 2008. IOB 04-47480 $574,548. REU supplements 2005, 2006, 2007 $18,000 to date.
1998-2000. Doctoral Improvement Grant for William A. Cresko. $7,470.
1992: National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship (SAF). Funding period 1992-1997. DEB 92-53718 $500,000, REU supplements $40,000 in total.
1991: National Science Foundation (SAF PI, J.A. Baker Co-PI). Behavior diversification in Alaskan threespine stickleback. Funding period 1991-1992. DEB 91-08132 $55,000. REU supplement $10,000.