Hormones and
Social Behaviour

Behavioural Ecology

Lee Koren, PhD

I study animal behaviour, hormones that are linked with social behaviours, and the evolutionary outcomes associated with hormones and with behaviours. In my research, I explore ‘non-traditional’ steroids, such as androgens in females and corticosterone in cortisol-dominant mammals, in the frameworks of comparative endocrinology and behavioural ecology.  I am interested in the life history of wild vertebrates in their natural environment, the effects of stressors, and the trait-offs arising from basic vs. social needs. In order to carry out my research I try to minimize my impact on the individual and group, by using non-invasive tools, such as hair and feathers to extract steroids and DNA, and collars equipped with sophisticated loggers to record behaviour.

Steroid hormones are ancient molecules, common to all animals. They can be used to signal internal states, and changes in their concentrations can lead to behavioural changes. Chronically elevated steroid concentrations may also be lethal. We have some evidence of that from long-term wildlife studies! Steroid concentration and behavioural changes can provide us valuable information about the well-being of the individual, group, and population. I am interested in integrating data from stress and sex steroid hormone concentrations that are sampled non-invasively from wildlife, with data on aggression, communication, and affiliative behaviours, in order to study natural ecosystems, as well as environments that are effected by human disturbances. I am interested in natural stressors (e.g., predators, parasites, weather, food availability, disease, social conflict) as well as anthropogenic stressors (e.g., populations that are hunted, suffer habitat fragmentation, or are disturbed by environmental contaminations). I am also interested in why there are two stress steroids (cortisol and corticosterone), how they are used, and what stressors they may be associated with.

Current address:
The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences
Bar-Ilan University
Ramat-Gan, 52900, Israel