Erin McCullough


Erin L. McCullough

Division of Biological Sciences

University of Montana

Missoula, MT, 59812

Email: erin.mccullough(at)umontana(dot)edu


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  • B.S. 2006 University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington
Grants / Fellowships/ Awards
  • 2011, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Fellowship for Graduate Student Travel ($1055)
  • 2011, Sigma Xi Grant in Aid of Research ($1000)
  • 2011, Teaching Innovation Award, University of Montana OREOS ($1000)
  • 2010, Sigma Xi Grant in Aid of Research ($800)
  • 2009, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship ($121,500)
  • 2009, National Academy of Sciences Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship ($66,000)
  • 2009, NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer InstituteFellowship, Taiwan ($8610)
Graduate and Undergraduate Experience
  • 2008 – present: University of Montana, PhD Candidate
    Diversity of animal weapons: Insights from the functional costs of rhinoceros beetle horns

    Advisors: Douglas Emlen and Bret Tobalske                                                                                             

  • 2007-2008: University of Puget Sound, Research Technician       
    Floral meristem reversion in the natural allotetraploid Arabidopsis suecica

    Supervisor: Andreas Madlung

  • 2006-2007: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand, Field Assistant
    Patch depletion and scramble competition in Phayre’s leaf monkeys

    Advisors: Andreas Koenig and Carola Borries

  • 2004: University of Kansas, Research Experience for Undergraduates
    Spatial and temporal memory and decision making in foraging honeybees

    Advisor: Rudolf Jander

Media Coverage
Research Interests

            One of the fundamental, and most exciting questions for evolutionary biologists is explaining the incredible amount of morphological variation that is found among organisms. My dissertation focuses on the evolution and diversification of animal weapons, and specifically, how the functional consequences of different horn types may have shaped the evolution of weapons among rhinoceros beetle species. I explore the hypothesis that the different sizes, shapes, and architectures of horns in rhinoceros beetles may reflect the functional and mechanical constraints on different weapon designs. That is, selection to minimize the functional costs of carrying and producing horns may explain why beetles living in different habitats have different horn morphologies; and selection to maximize the function of horns, or how well horns perform during combat, may help explain why beetles that have different fighting tactics, or that fight on different substrates have different types of horns. I hope to explore how mechanical and functional constraints have influenced the evolution of weapon morphology among rhinoceros beetles in order to better understand the diversity of some of Nature’s most elaborate body forms.