Dr. Lombardo is interested in the evolution of behavior. His current research involves examining both theoretically and empirically the role of sexually transmitted microbes (e.g., viruses, bacteria, and fungi) in the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of mating systems. According to Dr. Lombardo, it is easy to understand the advantages that accrue to individuals that avoid copulating with partners infected with sexually transmitted pathogens. However, it is also possible for an individual, especially a female, to benefit by copulating with a partner that inoculates it with a beneficial microbe that either acts as a therapy against a current infection or as a "vaccine" against future infection. Dr. Lombardo is interested in how the relative frequencies and potencies (i.e., effects on hosts) of sexually transmitted microbes in a population affect mating behavior. He also is collaborating with Dr. Thorpe on this project. Dr. Thorpe focuses on the microbiological aspects of this question while Dr. Lombardo focuses on the behavioral aspects.
Sport is a human universal, but has received relatively little attention from evolutionary biologists. I am currently working on a book, "A Natural History of Sports," that synthesizes information from anthropology, biology, history, psychology, sociology, and today's sports pages to explain the biological importance of this fundamental component of human nature.
Research Opportunities for Students:
Drs. Thorpe and Lombardo study these questions by examining the microbiology and mating behavior of Tree Swallows, a common bird on the GVSU campus. Each year they are assisted by both field and laboratory assistants. Student field assistants learn the skills necessary for conducting basic ornithological and behavioral research. Each learns how to census nest boxes, capture and color-mark wild birds, weigh and measure birds, search birds for ectoparasites (e.g., mites and lice), and take blood, semen, fecal, and cloacal samples. Under the direction of Dr. Thorpe, lab assistants learn basic microbiological techniques. They have had many students working with them in the past. Some have been quite successful and have made presentations at professional meeting and have been co-authors on papers published in scientific journals. If you are interested in participating in this project, you may contact either professor.
Lombardo, M. P. & P. A Thorpe. 2009. Captivity affects sperm production, testes size and beak color in House Sparrows (Passer domesticus). International Studies of Sparrows 33:5-16.
2008. Digit ratios in birds. Anatomical Record 291:1611-1618 (Lombardo, M. P., P. A. Thorpe, B. M. Brown*, & K. Sian).
2008. Digit ratios in green anolis lizards (Anolis carolinensis). Anatomical Record 291:433-440 (Lombardo, M. P. & P. A. Thorpe).
2008. Access to mutualistic endosymbiotic microbes: an under-appreciated benefit of group living. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 62:4799-497 (Lombardo, M. P.).
2004. Repeated sampling affects Tree Swallow semen characteristics. Journal of Field Ornithology 75:394-403 (Lombardo, M. P., M. L. Green*, P. A. Thorpe, M. R. Czarnowski, & H. W. Power).
2004. Leftsided bias of cloacal contacts furing House Sparrow copulations. Wilson Bulletin 115:470-473. (Nyland, K.B.*, M.P. Lombardo, and P.A. Thorpe).
2002. Individual, temporal, and seasonal variation in sperm concentration in Tree Swallows. Condor 104:831-838. (Lombardo, M. P., A. N. Forman*, M. R. Czarnowski, & P. A. Thorpe).
2001. Left-sided directional bias of cloacal contacts during Tree Swallow copulations. Animal Behaviour 62:739-741. (Petersen, A.*, M. P. Lombardo, & H. W. Power).
2001. Individual and seasonal variation in the external genitalia of male Tree Swallows. Auk 118:789-795.
2000. Microbes in Tree Swallow semen. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 36:460-468. (Lombardo, M. P. & P. A. Thorpe).
2000. The diets of nestling Tree Swallows in an upland old field in western Michigan. The American Midland Naturalist 144:216-219. (*Johnson, M. E. & M. P. Lombardo).
1999. Microbial colonization of the cloacae of nestling Tree Swallows. Auk 116:947-956. (*Mills, T. K., M. P. Lombardo, & P. A. Thorpe).
1999. The beneficial sexually transmitted microbe (STM) hypothesis of avian copulation. Behavioral Ecology 10:333-337. (Lombardo, M. P., P. A. Thorpe, & H. W. Power).
1998. On the evolution of sexually transmitted diseases in birds. Journal of Avian Biology 29:314-321.