People

Lead Researcher

Blair Wolf – Professor of Biology

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email: wolf [at] unm.edu; phone: 505-277-4122

Students in the Lab


Chuck Hayes

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Anyone who has made the journey across the southwestern deserts along Interstate 10, or journeyed to investigate the biodiversity of New Mexico’s bootheel region, has probably stopped for gas, food, or caffeine in Lordsburg, New Mexico.  But Chuck Hayes is likely one of the few people you will ever meet who is actually from Lordsburg.  The dusty panorama from Lordsburg’s Railroad Avenue does not strike you as a setting that fosters a strong interest in wildlife biology, but it was in fact the beginning of the path that brought Chuck to the University of New Mexico as a Ph.D. student working in Dr. Blair Wolf’s lab.

Chuck graduated from high school knowing that he had an academic interest in biology, but could be easily distracted from desk work by nice weather and many forms of recreational activities.  That made Grinnell College, situated among the corn fields in central Iowa, a great place for a small-town kid to learn biology without the distractions of bright lights or big cities.  After four years in the Midwest and another teaching environmental education in Rhode Island, Chuck’s withdrawal symptoms from the Southwest led him back to the University of Arizona, where he obtained a Master’s degree investigating desert mule deer activity and habitat use near the Central Arizona Project canal.  He found that the ability to survive (and lack of good sense to avoid) fieldwork conducted in temperatures exceeding 120OF led to more jobs working with desert ungulates in Nevada, California, and Arizona.  The stop in southern California was a particularly important one, where Chuck added his wife Shannon (now a Student Programs Specialist for UNM’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers program) and their daughter Maegan to the family, who collectively followed biology jobs further inland to Arizona and then New Mexico.  Chuck has spent the last 19 years working for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, where he has held jobs working in carnivore management, endangered species conservation, wildlife information systems, and ecological planning.  Chuck began his research at UNM in 2010, motivated by a desire for a mid-career refresher and to help meld information from theoretical and applied wildlife research.

Chuck is now working to wrap up a research project that compares the use of seasonal energy resources and population growth between Gunnison’s prairie dogs from prairie and montane environments.  He has learned many new things while working in the Wolf lab—such as the deceptively powerful bite force of prairie dogs that belies their superficially “cute” appearance—and gotten to re-learn others, including lab techniques that had not been used in the last 25 years, and an opportunity for a return to Arizona for some field work in saguaro country.  The academic journey has sometimes felt like a long, hot and dusty road, but Chuck’s motivation continues to be centered on a fundamental belief—that a world with wildlife is better than a world without it.

email: clhayes [at] unm.edu


Brittney Hopkins Coe

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hellbender photoBrittney joined the Wolf lab in Fall 2015 as a PhD student. Brittney’s primary research interests focus on understanding how physiological parameters can be used to understand broader level shifts in population and community composition across changing landscapes.

Brittney received her BS in Biology and Biochemistry from Virginia Tech in 2009. As an undergraduate, Brittney completed a senior thesis project that examined the effects of incubation temperature on locomotor performance in wood ducks (Aix sponsa) early in ontogeny (Hopkins et al. 2011). This project fueled her passion for research and solidified her decision to work towards a Master’s degree. Under the guidance of Dr. Bill Hopkins, Brittney developed non-destructive sampling techniques to quantify mercury concentrations and associated reproductive effects in snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) inhabiting a historically contaminated site in order to provide information for local agencies to determine safe human consumption limits, assess ecological risk, and enable future monitoring efforts to be conducted in a sustainable manner (Hopkins et al. 2013b,c). After completing her degree, Brittney continued to pursue a broad range of research questions and collaborated with multiple lab and Virginia Tech members.

Now located in the Southwest, Brittney has joined the Wolf lab in pursuit of a PhD. For her dissertation, Brittney will quantify thermal and hygric limits of small mammals  inhabiting various areas across a rapidly changing Southwestern landscape. She hopes to use these physiological parameters to model current and future species distributions of small mammal communities in relation to current and projected climatic models.

In her free time, Brittney enjoys climbing, running, teardrop camping, playing with her dog Abbey, and a big glass of red wine.

email: bcoe [at] unm.edu


William Talbot, MD

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Bill grew up with ranching near Ft. Worth, Texas. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Oklahoma and he attended the University of Oklahoma Medical School. Internship and residency brought him to the University of New Mexico. During his thirty year practice of thoracic and vascular surgery, he has served as Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery. During this time, he maintained an interest in field biology from teenage years working at the OU Biological Station through courses and field expeditions with the UNM Biology Department and involvement with local Audubon Society. Now retired from medicine, he has the time to pursue research on thermal biology of nocturnal desert birds (and do a lot more birding). 

email: wtalbot [at] unm.edu


Caleb Loughran

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I am interested in how environmental pressures cause variation in an organism’s physiology, and the consequences for its behavior and ecology. I am also keen on understanding an organism’s natural history, as it more often than not lays the groundwork for asking bigger questions.  I am primarily interested reptiles as study organisms, in part because of their vast array of physiological adaptations to deal with extreme environments. My previous research focused on the behavioral and thermal ecology of rattlesnakes in Washington State. Additionally, I have assisted with numerous projects that ranged from the foraging ecology of rattlesnakes in Arizona, to the reproductive ecology of tortoises in California.

My current research is focused on the physiological responses of squamate reptiles, with particular focus on the genus Sceloporus, to variation in climatic conditions across elevational and latitudinal gradients. The theme of my research is to use an organism’s physiology to predict how lizards will respond to climate change over time. My primary research questions are 1) how does the body condition of conspecifics vary in different ecotones across its range? 2) what are the tradeoffs/consequences of viviparity vs oviparity for body condition in different species?  My goal is to address unresolved aspects questions pertaining to lizard ecophysiology, and to provide empirical data to models predicting lizard extinctions.

email: loughran [at] unm.edu


Eric K. Smith

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Eric earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Stanford. For years he enjoyed the pace and challenge of producing and testing integrated circuits, initially in Silicon Valley and later in Albuquerque.  He took breaks from engineering to earn a master’s degree in comparative social history, canvas for Greenpeace, produce GIS-based datasets for the Trust for Public Land and WildEarth Guardians, plant thousands of cottonwoods and willows across New Mexico, and survey plants and birds for Natural Heritage New Mexico.  He began working to change careers and become a biologist with a strong focus on ecology, restoration and conservation in 2008.

As part of the Blair O. Wolf Lab at the University of New Mexico, Eric helped to characterize the thermal physiology of 40+ species of birds from the Sonoran Desert (summer 2012-13), Kalahari desert (winter 2013) and Australian outback (winter 2014).  His initial paper as first author, “Avian thermoregulation in the heat:  Resting metabolism, evaporative cooling, and heat tolerance in Sonoran Desert doves and quail” is currently in review with the Journal of Experimental Biology.

email: ericksmith2 [at] yahoo.edu


Lab Alumni

Corrie Borgman
Recent MS Graduate

Kristen Cruz-McDonnell
Recent MS Graduate

Matt Bauman
Recent MS Graduate

Alex Gerson
Post-Doc

Ian Murray
PhD

Robin Warne
PhD

Hillary Lease
PhD

Tom Meehan
PhD