Ballew, Nicholas

Ballew, Nicholas
Michigan State University

I am a PhD student in Dr. Gary Mittelbach's lab at Michigan State University. I am a Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), Zoology, and Ecology Evolutionary Biology and Behavior (EEBB) graduate student.  My research interests are in the ecology and evolution of behavior as well as coupled human natural systems.  I have incorporated both of these areas of interest into my dissertation research.

For my dissertation, I am investigating the relationship between personality and fitness in largemouth bass populations. I am comparing the fitness of personality types in angled and non-angled populatons to investigate if angling alters the relative fitness of personality phenotypes.

The aim of my dissertation research is to identify the relationship between personality and fitness in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). I hypothesize that relatively bolder, more aggressive phenotypes have a higher relative fitness in non-angled populations and that relatively less bold and less aggressive phenotypes have a higher relative fitness in angled populations. I predict that an individual's angling vulnerability is positively correlated with its boldness and aggression levels and that angling vulnerabilty decreases fitness in heavily fished lakes. I predict that this could translate into ecological consequences for angled bass populations.  This would be especially true if boldness and/or aggression is correlated with reproductive success, a result commonly found in other studies on fish.  Furthermore, if an individual's boldness and aggressiveness is heritable, then angling could have an important evolutionary impact on the population as well.  To test my hypothesis, I will collect bass from a lake, bring them to the lab to give them unique ID marks, run them through a behavioral assay procedure, and then transport them to experimental ponds.  The bass in some ponds will be angled (during both the nesting and non-nesting seasons) while bass in other ponds will be left alone. DNA samples will be taken from all mature bass stocked into the ponds and all the young of year produced.  The young of year produced will also undergo the behavioral assay procedure as they develop.

Research Interests: 
ecology and evolution of behavior; coupled human natural systems