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Dr. Amy Newman
Assistant Professor

Dr. Amy Newman


Website: Newman Lab
Office: SSC 1467
Phone: 519-824-4120, Ext: 56595
Lab: SSC 1407/1408
Ext: 58156


My research and training lay at the intersection among ecology, physiology, and neuroendocrinology. I am broadly interested in stress biology and the wide-ranging effects of the early life environment; research in my lab is focused on investigating and understanding the effects of the early life environment on the development and function of the stress axis in natural populations. We investigate how early life stress exposure influences physiology, behaviour and, ultimately, fitness. We use a variety of approaches from large-scale manipulations in the wild to controlled laboratory experiments. I am excited by integrative questions that span levels of biological organization and encourage students in my lab to explore questions from evolutionary, ecological, physiological and molecular perspectives.


B.Sc. - Queen's University (2004)
Ph.D. - University of British Columbia (2009)
NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Guelph (2010-2012)


Generally, I apply an integrative approach to combine field and laboratory techniques to examine the impact of a wide range of stressors using wild songbirds and small mammals as animal models. I investigate proximate and ultimate questions related to the effects of naturally relevant stressors at the molecular and neuronal level and how these effects translate to neuroendocrine development and function and, finally, the subsequent effects on adult neuroplasticity, behaviour and, fitness.

Stress and glucocorticoids have well-known effects on the development and function of the nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis affects a range of integrated biological processes including immune function, life-history and breeding biology, development and aging, and neurogenesis. Nonetheless, the mechanisms governing the interaction between the environment and phenotype remain elusive. A growing body of biomedical research suggests that the connection resides in the epigenome, a fundamental mechanism that connects genes and the environment and the emerging area of ecological epigenetics is one research focus of my lab.

One of my primary study systems is a long-term marked population of wild Savannah Sparrows on Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy. A key feature of this population is that individuals born on the island have relatively high rates of natal philopatry, providing the unique opportunity to examine multigenerational effects in the wild. Using this songbird model system, I am conducting eco-physiological studies and currently testing the effects of post-natal stressors and the early life environment on juvenile survival, HPA responsiveness in adulthood, and fitness.

I have also been collaborating with the Kluane Red Squirrel Project to experimentally induce prenatal stress on wild red squirrels in order to understand the long-term effects on the offspring HPA axis, behaviour and fitness. Understanding the mechanisms and long-term effects of early-life stress on individual physiology and behaviour in a natural context is paramount to predicting the consequences of stress exposure on wild populations.

Selected Publications

Newman AEM, Edmunds N, Ferraro S, Heffell Q, Merritt G, Pakkala JJ, Schilling C, Schorno S. 2015. Using ecology to inform physiology studies: implications of high population density in the laboratory. AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 308: R449-R454.

Wada H, Newman AEM, Hall ZJ, Soma KK, MacDougall-Shackleton SA. 2014. Effects of corticosterone and DHEA on doublecortin immunoreactivity in the adult song control system of song sparrows. Journal of Developmental Neurobiology,74: 52-62.

Fiske JA, Gannon D, Newman AEM. 2013. The effects of repeated investigator handling on growth rate and the acute stress response in Leach's Storm-Petrel chicks. Journal of Field Ornithology, 84:425-432.

Dantzer BJ, Newman AEM, Boonstra R, Palme R, Boutin S, Humphries MM, McAdam AG. 2013. Density cues trigger maternal stress hormones that increase adaptive offspring growth in a wild mammal. Science, 340: 1215-1217.

Newman AEM, Zanette LY, Clinchy M, Goodenough N, Soma KK. 2013. Stress in the wild: chronic predator pressure and acute restraint affect plasma DHEA and corticosterone levels in a songbird. Stress, 16:363-367.

Pakkala J, Norris DR, Newman AEM. 2013. An experimental test of the capture-restraint protocol for estimating the acute stress response. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 86: 279-284.

Williams H, Levin I, Norris DR, Newman AEM, Wheelwright, NT. 2013. Three decades of cultural evolution in Savannah sparrow songs. Animal Behavior, 85: 213-223.

Mitchell GW, Newman AEM, Wikelski M, Norris DR. 2012. Timing of breeding carries over to influence migratory departure in a songbird: an automated radio tracking study. Journal of Animal Ecology, 81: 1024-1033.

Kupferschmidt DA, Newman AEM, Boonstra R, Erb S. 2011. Antagonism of cannabinoid 1 receptors reverses the anxiety-like behaviour induced by central injections of corticotropin-releasing factor and cocaine withdrawal. Neuroscience, 204: 125-133.

Newman AEM, Soma KK. 2011. Aggressive interactions differentially modulate local and systemic levels of corticosterone and DHEA in a wild songbird. Hormones and Behavior 60:389-396.

Charlier TD, Newman AEM, Heimovics SA, Po KWL, Saldanha CJ, Soma KK. 2011. Rapid effects of aggressive interactions on aromatase activity and oestradiol in discrete brain regions of wild male white-crowned sparrows. Journal of Neuroendocrinology 23:742-753.

Clinchy M, Zanette L, Charlier TD, Newman AEM, Schmidt KL, Boonstra R, Soma KK. 2011. Multiple measures elucidate glucocorticoid responses to environmental variation in predation threat. Oecologia 166:607-614.

An YS, Kriengwatana B, Newman AEM, MacDougall-Shackleton EA, MacDougall-Shackleton SA. 2011. Social rank, neophobia, and observational learning in black-capped chickadees. Behavior 148:55-69.

Newman AEM, MacDougall-Shackleton SA, An Y, Kriengwatana B, Soma KK. 2010. Corticosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone have opposing effects on adult neuroplasticity in the avian song control system. Journal of Comparative Neurology 518:3662-78.

Pradhan DS, Newman AEM, Wacker DW, Wingfield JC, Schlinger BA, Soma KK. 2010. Aggressive interactions rapidly increase androgen synthesis in the brain during the non-breeding season. Hormones and Behavior 57:381-389.

Charlier TD, Po KW, Newman AEM, Shah AH, Saldanha CJ, Soma KK. 2010. 17?-estradiol levels in male zebra finch brain: combining Palkovits punch technique and an ultrasensitive radioimmunoassay. General and Comparative Endocrinology 167:18-26

MacDougall-Shackleton SA, Dindia L, Newman AEM, Potvin DA, Stewart KA, MacDougall-Shackleton EA. 2009. Stress, song and survival in sparrows. Biology Letters 5:746-748.

Scotti MA, Schmidt KL, Newman AEM, Bonu T, Soma KK, Demas GE. 2009. Aggressive encounters differentially affect serum dehydroepiandrosterone and testosterone concentrations in male Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus). Hormones and Behavior 56:376-381.

Newman AEM, Soma KK. 2009. Corticosterone and DHEA in wild songbird brain: effects of season and acute stress. European Journal of Neuroscience 29:1905-1914.

Boonstra R, Lane JE, Boutin S, Bradley A, Desantis L, Newman AEM, Soma KK. 2008. Plasma DHEA levels in wild, territorial red squirrels: seasonal variation and the effect of ACTH. General and Comparative Endocrinology 158:61-67.

Newman AEM, Pradhan DS, Soma KK. 2008. DHEA and corticosterone are regulated by season and acute stress in a wild songbird: jugular versus brachial plasma. Endocrinology 149: 2537-2545.

Newman AEM, Chin EH, Schmidt KL, Bond L, Wynne-Edwards KE, Soma KK. 2008. Analysis of steroids in songbird plasma and brain by coupling solid phase extraction to radioimmunoassay. General and Comparative Endocrinology 155:503-510.

Sheldon LD, Chin EH, Gill SA, Schmaltz G, Newman AEM, Soma KK. 2008. Effects of blood collection on wild birds: an update. Journal of Avian Biology 39:369-378.

Soma KK, Scotti MA, Newman AEM, Charlier TD, Demas GE. 2008. Novel mechanisms for neuroendocrine regulation of aggression. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 29:476-489.

Newman AEM, Xiao C, Robertson RM. 2005. Synaptic thermoprotection in a desert-dwelling Drosophila species. Journal of Neurobiology 64:170-180.

Newman AEM, Foerster M, Shoemaker KL, Robertson RM. 2003. Stress-induced thermotolerance of ventilatory motor pattern generation in the locust. Journal of Insect Physiology 49:1039-1047.

Grad Students

Graduate students in my lab are expected to form creative and independent hypotheses. My goal as a mentor is to work closely with students to refine their thesis topics while also challenging students to develop research and critical thinking skills and to achieve their academic potential. Students are strongly encouraged to write a series of publications that will form the chapters of their thesis. My students typically have a field and laboratory component to their research and there are opportunities to work on a variety of songbird and small mammal systems. If you are interested in pursing graduate studies in this integrative and multidisciplinary environment, please feel free to contact me via email. Make sure to include a short cover letter describing your interests, a CV, and an unofficial transcript.

Undergraduate Students

Interested and dedicated undergraduate students are also encouraged to seek out opportunities in the lab. I enjoy mentoring undergraduate students and we routinely hire undergraduate students as research assistants and there are opportunities for 4th year thesis projects.

Current lab members:
Kiera Newman (PhD, 2015-present) - Co-advised by R. Norris
Nikole Freeman (MSc, 2014-present)
Helmi Hess (NSERC USRA, 2015-present)
Jesse Pakkala (MSc, 2013-present)- Co-advised by R. Norris


Newman Lab