Freya van Kesteren, Post-doc

Freya’s research interests are in field based ecology and behavioral physiology. She recently joined the research group as a post-doc to study behavioral physiology of North American red squirrels, focusing on the effects of stress hormones on red squirrel behaviour, and the effects of maternal stress hormones on juvenile red squirrel development and life histories. Freya has been quickly convinced that red squirrels provide a great model organism for asking questions about maternal stress effects and effects of stress on behavior as they can be trapped, marked and followed over the course oftheir lifetime. Because they are territorial and live on middens, this allows us to find and observe them with relative ease.

Prior to joining the Dantzer lab, Freya completed a Ph.D. on zoonotic parasites in the genus Echinococcus at Salford University in the United Kingdom. Echinococcus spp. cause the serious and often fatal disease echinococcosis in humans. Her research focused on a common host for these parasites, the domesticdog, and included studying aspects of dog ecology in relation to parasite transmission. Fieldwork for this study was carried out in high endemic areas in Kyrgyzstan (Allay Valley) and China (Hobukesar County in Xinjiang and Shiqu County on the Tibetan Plateau), with lab work conducted at the Cestode Zoonoses Research Group at Salford University.

Before starting her Ph.D., Freya studied reproductive physiology of Ethiopian wolves, Canis simensis, at Oxford University. Ethiopian wolves live in packs and breed cooperatively, raising interesting questions about reproductive suppression of subordinates and the relationship between stress and social status. Although her research was mainly on reproductive physiology, it also included some work on rabies and helminth parasites in Ethiopian wolves. Over the past few years, she has also collaborated with other researchers on projects related to the wider field of ecology, including on diet of African lions in Zimbabwe, animal welfare in the wildlife trade, and the role of moral relativism in biodiversity conservation.