Trained as a neurobiologist, Morris studies the process of ciliogenesis—the process by which cilia form. Cilia are long appendages of cells that beat like paddles to move fluid over a cell or stand straight like antennae to receive signals from the outside world. Healthy cilia help embryos grow, lungs clear, eyes see and ears hear.
Morgan investigates the stress of animals in captive environments and the ways in which humans can try to reduce it. She also studies other aspects of human-animal interactions. Morgan serves as director of research at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, Mass., where she and her research partners recently completed a study on how allowing visitors to feed a giraffe affected the visitors’ attitudes and behavior.
Kirkpatrick’s research focuses on the role of hormones (particularly estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) in behavior. Recently, she has examined environmental endocrine disrupters such as BPA, looking specifically at how BPA affects hormone receptors in the brain and reproductive function of animals.
Benoit studies the biogeochemistry of mercury and other trace metals in the environment, specifically, estuaries and wetlands, and how this substance moves through the food web in the form of methylmercury. Mercury is a toxin that can impair neurological development in fetuses, infants and children.