Alexis Messler


Following my Masters Degree, I decided to give research a rest, and pursue business management, first for a small wholesale jewelry company and then as supervisor of two labs at Excel Clinical Labs in Boston. After two years of managing people, I decided I would much rather work with animals again, and committed to my long-term, but somewhat uncertain goal of becoming a veterinarian. I applied to Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and, with the help of the excellent education I received at Clark and recommendations from Dr. Foster and Dr. Robertson, was accepted for the Class of 2013. Vet school is very challenging, but I am absolutely enjoying it.

5th-year Masters

I first began studying anti-predator behavior in Susan’s Evolution Seminar. Sabina Borza and I studied fright responses in guppies for a class project, and later expanded on our experiments with stickleback. We presented our findings, “Variation in Predator Avoidance Behavior among Populations of Threespine Stickleback” at the 2004 Academic Spree Day. I continued the same work through my senior year, and completed an Honors Thesis, for which I earned High Honors.

messler1Taking advantage of the fifth year program, I remained at Clark to pursue a Master’s Degree in Biology, studying the effects of relaxed and reversed selection by predators in populations of stickleback. Susan was kind enough to bring me to Alaska (an amazing experience), where I collected and ran trials on stickleback from the ancestral population as well as two inland populations with different predator regimes. Both freshwater populations had been historically devoid of piscine predators, but one population had experienced a recent (25 years prior) reintroduction of trout. We found initial evidence for alterations of the ancestral anti-predator behavior in the relaxed selection population as well as elevated anti-predator behaviors in the reverse selection population. The thesis was published in Ethology in September 2007. Matt Wund, then a post-doctoral fellow, helped immensely in the construction of both the thesis and final publication. He is continuing and expanding this line of study, now in his own faculty position at the College of New Jersey.