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Steven M Phelps

Department of Integrative Biology


Phone: 512-475-6304

Office Location
PAT 22

Postal Address
AUSTIN, TX 78712

Dr. Phelps got his PhD in Integrative Biology from the University of Texas in 1999. As a graduate student he received pre-doctoral fellowships from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and the National Institutes of Health. As a post-doc, he was a fellow at STRI and at the NSF Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in Atlanta. He was a faculty member at the University of Florida from 2002-2010, and joined the University of Texas in 2010. He is currently an Associate Professor of Integrative Biology, and the Director and co-founder of UT-Austin's Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution.He is a member of graduate programs in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, Cell and Molecular Biology, Neuroscience and Psychology. His lab has been funded by NSF, NIH and National Geographic. His interests include social cognition, perceptual scaling and brain size, signal detection and information theory, neural network models, the evolution of gene regulation, epigenetics and transcription, sexual selection, human evolution and population genetics. He also likes softball, good writing, and old country music.

Research Summary:

The lab employs a diverse array of approaches, ranging from computational models to the molecular analysis of gene expression. This work is strongly anchored in empirical studies of animal behavior in both the laboratory and field. Using "exotic" rodent models, we focus on the nature and consequences of within- and between-species variation in neuronal gene expression and behavior. For example, we study how individual differences in the neuronal distribution of vasopressin receptors contribute to social attachment, space-use and sexual fidelity in the socially monogamous prairie vole. Another major model concerns the production and perception of advertisement songs in the singing mouse -- a project that includes neuroanatomical studies, field playbacks, and population genetic analysis of song variation. These projects involve substantial field components in both the U.S. and Central America.

D.V. Blondel, G.N. Wallace, S. Calderone, M. Gorinshteyn, C. St. Mary and S.M. Phelps. 2016. Effects of population density on corticosterone levels of prairie voles in the field. General and Comparative Endocrinology 225:13-22

M. Okhovat, A. Berrio, G. Wallace, A.G. Ophir and S.M. Phelps. 2015. Sexual fidelity trade-offs promote regulatory variation in the prairie vole brain. Science 350:1371-1374.

B. Pasch, B.M. Bolker and S.M. Phelps. 2013. Interspecific dominance via vocal interactions mediates altitudinal zonation in Neotropical singing mice. American Naturalist 182: e-article.

A.G. Ophir, A. Gessel, D. Zheng and S.M. Phelps. 2012Oxytocin receptor density is associated with male mating tactics and social monogamy. Hormones & Behavior 61:445-463.

M. Fernandez-Vargas, Z. Tang-Martinez and S.M. Phelps. 2011. Singing, allogrooming, and allomarking behaviour during inter- and intra-sexual encounters in the Neotropical short-tailed singing mouse (Scotinomys teguina). Behavior 148:945-965.