Michael C. Moore, Ph.D.


Dr. Moore teaches Introductory Biology (BISC 208), Physiology (BISC 276) and Endocrine Physiology(BSIC 610). 

Research Interests

Dr. Moore is an integrative systems biologist working at the interface between behavior, neuroscience, physiology and ecology. He is interested in the reproductive biology of vertebrates, especially the neuroendocrine regulation of reproduction and reproductive behavior. He studies natural populations of free-living animals, because many natural social behaviors are only seen in wild animals. In the past he has worked extensively on behavioral neuroendocrinology of aggression in lizards.  However, he is currently interested in how the endocrine system regulates tradeoffs between investments in immunie function and in reproduction and is working on these problems in two species of wild birds, House Sparrows and Tree Swallows.

Current Projects

A major challenge for integrative biology is to understand how organisms allocate resources between competing activities that affect fitness, such as growth, reproduction and immunity. Central to this challenge is understanding physiological mechanisms underlying these allocation decisions.  Dr Moore is investigating a potential signal of body condition that could mediate resource allocation. He is conducting a complementary series of laboratory and field experiments to study the physiological mediation of investment of resources in two widely studied birds, House Sparrows and Tree Swallows. 

Life history tradeoffs have historically been viewed as a conflict between investment in growth and reproduction. This view was transformed by the discovery that an immune response is costly and uses both energy and nutrient reserves.  The new discipline of "ecoimmunology" emerged to study how investments in immunity factor into life history decisions.  However, the underlying physiological mechanisms of such tradeoffs are poorly known and their identification would represent a critical advance. These tradeoffs vary according to body condition and involve "lipostatic" signals that indicate whether the body is in good condition or not.  The most studied of such “lipostatic” signals is the hormone leptin which is produced by fat tissue and signals long term energy balance (fat accumulation). A second, less well studied, lipostatic hormone is ghrelin. Ghrelin is secreted primarily by the stomach after short-term food deprivation and is therefore a signal of short term energy balance and recent foraging success.

Dr Moore's laboratory is using House Sparrows to study the basic biology of ghrelin in a wild animal, the first time this hormone has been studied in anything other than a laboratory rodent or domestic bird.  They are looking at the relationships between plasma ghrelin levels and both food consumption and immunity.  The basic hypothesis is that ghrelin will increase when birds are not getting enough to eat and this will suppress immunity so that resources can be diverted to other functions.  They are also conducting naturalistic field studies using a population of Tree Swallows that are nesting in bird boxes they have provided.  They are particularly interested in this species because it forages exclusively on flying insects, a notoriously unpredictable resource.  Tree Swallows regularly experience food shortages during cool weather or storms.  They are interested in how ghrelin regulates the allocation of resources in breeding Tree Swallows among immunity, reproduction and parental effort and how it might therefore help adapt the birds to these food shortages.


Selected Publications


Phone: (302) 831-2290

Fax: (302) 831-2281

Email: mcmoore@udel.edu

Office: 319 Wolf Hall

Lab: 340 Wolf Hall

Department of Biological Sciences
Wolf Hall
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716


  • B.A. - Indiana University
  • Ph.D. - University of Washington
  • Postdoctoral - University of Texas, Austin