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Tracey K. Brown, Ph.D.

Tracey K. Brown, Ph.D.

About Tracey K. Brown, Ph.D.

Dr. Brown joined the Biology faculty at CSUSM in Fall 2002 after conducting postdoctoral work at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research  (previously center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species).  Dr. Brown’s current research involves various aspects of conservation, restoration and physiological ecology of vertebrates, with a focus on native reptiles.

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B.A. University of California, Berkeley

Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles

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My research interests stem from a curiosity of the intricate relationship between an animal and its environment.  How do species respond to environmental perturbations? What characteristics enable some species to survive when faced with habitat disturbance and fragmentation, while others disappear?  Which biotic or abiotic habitat features are critical to the survival of certain species?  What traits allow introduced species to become “pests”?  These are examples of the broad ecological and conservation questions I find interesting.

To date, my research projects have focused on various aspects of reptile biology ranging from physiological ecology to conservation and management.  Although reptiles constitute an important part of many ecosystems, they often do not receive as much public or scientific attention in the conservation arena as do other vertebrates.  In fact, certain species such as rattlesnakes may be intentionally persecuted.  By conducting intensive field studies of model reptile species, I hope to provide published scientific information that will facilitate the conservation of reptile species in management programs.   My current research projects largely encompass three areas:

  1. Conservation and diet ecology of horned lizards
  2. Energetics of foraging mode & growth in reptiles
  3. Response of vertebrates to habitat change such as introduced species and wildfire

In the past several years I have become greatly involved in increasing access to research experiences and student success for students through several grant and donation supported opportunites and initiatives.

CSUSM Beckman Scholars Program

North County Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program

Biology Student Success Coaching (HHMI Inclusive Access Supported)

ESTEEMED: Building Early Awareness and Research in Science (BEARS)

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  • BIO 211 - Intro. to Organismal and Pop. Biology
  • BIO 338 - Human Impact on the Environment
  • BIO 354 - Principles of Ecology
  • BIO 363 -Conservation Biology
  • BIO 400/400L - Vertebrate Biology
  • BIO 505 - Physiological Ecology

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Current Master's Students

Victoria Apaldetti is developing molecular methods to assess the dietary ecology of Blainville's Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii) at several locations in San Diego County.

Previous Master's Students

Andrew Cacciaguida (2021) studied the long-term recovery of bird populations post-fire in Mediterranean habitats of southern California.  Thesis title: Wildfire, habitat change, and avian diversity in a Mediterranean ecosystem.

Kendall Hines (2019) recently completed her research on the habitat characteristics associated with lambing sites of Peninsular Big Horn sheep. Thesis title: Post-partum Habitat Use for Peninsular Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) in Southern California.

Jennifer Keating- McCullough (2011) conducted an acoustical study using Raven of the vocalizations made during mating encounters of Giant panda in China and at the San Diego Zoo. She is now employed by Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Thesis title: Implications of vocalizations during giant panda breeding encounters.

Brian Greco
Brian Greco (2011) conducted learning trials with African elephants to test the degree of social learning. He completed a Ph.D. at UC Davis and is now an assistant professor at Univ. of Wisconsin, River Falls. Thesis title: Social learning in captive adult African Elephants. 
Justin Chuven (2009) studied communication behavior in Asiatic Wild Dogs (Cuon alpinus).  Little is known about this endangered species, and Justin researched social communication among pack members and the ability to recognize foreign pack members. He is now the Unit Head Ex-situ Conservation Programs at Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Thesis title: Behavioral responses of the Chinese dhole (Cuon alpinus lepturus) to conspecific and prey vocalizations.

Bethany Principe (2009) studied the over-wintering habits of Southwestern Pond Turtles (Clemmys marmorata) using radio-telemetry to track turtles in both San Diego (Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve) and Riverside (Santa Rosa Plateau) Counties to determine their annual movement patterns and locations of hibernacula. She is currently working for the Mission Resource Conservation District in Fallbrook, CA. Thesis title: Population demographics and overwintering ecology of southern California Pacific pond turtles, Actinemys (Clemmys) marmorata

Janene Colby (2008) compared home range size estimates based on VHF and GPS radio-collar technology of Southern Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus fuliginatus) in the Peninsular Ranges of southern California. She is now a biologist with Cal. Fish and Game. Thesis title: Comparison of VHF and GPS data from radio-collared female mule deer: location error, home range attributes, and habitat selection.
Ken Morgan Zoo
Ken Morgan studied the foraging ecology of Blainville's Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii).  His study involved behavioral observations of foraging by individual horned lizard with respect to the distribution of their prey of harvester ants.

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