Faculty Biography

Susan Foster

Susan A. Foster

Professor of Biology
Department of Biology
Chair of Environmental Science Steering Committee
Lasry Center for Bioscience
15 Maywood St.
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

Office: #233; Lab: #253
Phone: (508) 793-7204
Email: sfoster@clarku.edu

Curriculum Vitae
Research Lab Website


Ph.D. University of Washington, Seattle
B.S. University of Wisconsin, Madison

Current Research and Teaching

Stickleback image

Since the last glacial maximum, the diminutive threespine stickleback fish has undergone a remarkable adaptive radiation in freshwater lakes and streams in holarctic coastal regions.  Freshwater populations, derived from the ancient marine threespine stickleback, have evolved 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 interface between plasticity and selection over the course of evolution.  In collaboration with others we are now employing gene expression studies to better understand this interface.

I teach Evolution and research/seminar courses in Animal Behavior and Conservation and Effective Practice.  I also oversee a diversity of undergraduate and accelerated BA/MS research projects related to my interests.

Editorial Positions

Co-executive Editor, Animal Behaviour
Co-editor in Chief, Ethology

Edited Volumes and Special Issues

Hollander, J., E. Snell-Rood and S. Foster (Eds). 2015. New frontiers in phenotypic plasticity and evolution. Heredity 115: 273-388.

Foster, S.A. and A. Sih (Eds.) 2013. Behavioural plasticity and evolution.  Animal Behaviour 85: 103-1133.

Foster, S.A. and J.A. Endler (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.

Selected Publications

Baker, J.A., Wund, M.A., Heins, D.C., King, R.W., Reyes, M. and Foster, S.A. 2015. Life history plasticity in threespine stickleback.  Heredity 115: 322-334.

Foster, S.A., Wund, M.A. and Baker, J.A. 2015. Evolutionary influences of plastic behavioral responses to environmental challenges in an adaptive radiation. Integrative and Comparative Biology 55(3): 347-355,

Foster, S.A., Wund, M.A., Graham, M.A., Earley, R.L., Gardiner, R, Kearns, T. and Baker, J.A. 2015. Iterative development and the scope for plasticity: Contrasts among trait categories in an adaptive radiation. Heredity 115:335-348.

Wund, M.A., Baker, J.A., Golub, J.L. and Foster, S.A. 2015. The evolution of anti-predator behaviour following relaxed and reversed selection in Alaskan threespine stickleback fish. Animal Behaviour 106:181-189.

Baker, J.A., Ackein, L.A., Heins, D.C., King, R.W. and Foster, S.A. 2013. The implications of pelvic reduction in threespine stickleback for long-termpersistence of populations within the Cook Inlet region of Alaska. Evolutionary Ecology Research, 15: 313-330.

Bell, A.M., S.A. Foster and M.A. Wund 2013.  Evolutionary perspectives on personality in stickleback. In: Claudio Carere and Dario Maestripieri (Eds), Personality in Animals, pp. 36-65. University of Chicago.

Foster, S.A. 2013. Evolution of behavioural phenotypes: influences of ancestry and expression. Animal Behavior, 85:1061-1075.

Foster, S.A. 2013. Evolutionary insights from behavioral geography: Plasticity, evolution and responses to rapid environmental change.  Evolutionary Ecology Research 15:705-731.

Hughes, L.C., Baker, J.A. and Foster, S.A. 2013. Can ecotypic differences in male courtship behavior be explained by visual cues provided by female threespine stickleback?  Evolutionary Ecology Research, 15:437-451.

Foster, S.A. and M.A. Wund. 2011.  Plasticity and evolution in the adaptive radiation of the threespine stickleback. Epignetics: Linking genotype and Phenotype in development and evolution.  B. Hallgrimsson and B.K. Hall, University of California Press.

Baker, J.A., D.C. Heins, R.W. King and S.A. Foster 2011. Rapid evolution of life history traits in threespine stickleback.  Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24: 863-870. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02217.x
Moczek, A.P., S. Sultan, S.A. Foster, C. Ledon-Rettig, I. Dworkin, H. F. Nijhout, E. Abouheif and D. W.

Pfennig. 2011.  The role of developmental plasticity in evolutionary innovation. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 278, 2705–2713, doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.0971

Baker, J.A., M.A. Wund, R.Y. Chock, L. Ackein, R. Elsemore, and S.A. Foster. 2010. Predation history and vulnerability: Conservation of the stickleback adaptive radiation.  Conservation Biology 143:1184-1192.

Lahti, D.C., N.A. Johnson, B.C. Ajie, S.P. Otto, A.P. Hendry, D.T. Blumstein, R.G. Coss, K. Donohue, S.A. Foster 2009.  Relaxed Selection in the Wild. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. TREE: 24:487-496