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M. Denise Dearing

Distinguished Professor

Ph.D. University of Utah

Graduate Program Membership:

Office/Building: ASB 530A
Phone: 801-585-1298
Dearing Lab:

Research Statement

At every meal, herbivores are faced with the prospect of being poisoned by naturally occurring toxins in plants. Little experimental work exists on the physiological mechanisms that mammalian herbivores employ to deal with plant toxins or how some species such as Stephen's woodrat are capable of specializing on toxic plants. Our research focuses on ecological factors and physiological constraints that influence foraging behavior and the evolution of diet breadth in mammalian herbivores. In addition to plant-herbivore interactions, my lab studies host-pathogen interactions. We are currently investigating the ecological aspects of Sin Nombre virus and its reservoir the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus).

Research Interests

General Interests
Specific Interests
  • Physiological and behavioral ecology
  • Plant-herbivore interactions
  • Disease ecology

Selected Publications

  • Greenhalgh R, Holding ML, Orr TJ, Henderson JB, Parchman TL, Matocq MD, Shapiro MD, Dearing MD (2021) Trio-binned genomes of the woodrats Neotoma bryanti and N. lepida reveal novel gene islands and rapid copy number evolution of xenobiotic metabolizing cytochrome p450 genes bioRxiv 2021.03.08.434435; oi:
  • Weinstein SB, Martinez-Mota R, Stapleton TS, Klure DM, Greenhalgh R, Orr TJ, Dale C, Kohl KD, Dearing MD. Microbiome stability and structure is governed by host phylogeny over diet and geography in woodrats (Neotoma spp.). (2021) Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 118: e2108787118
  • Weinstein SB, Malanga KN, Agwanda B, Maldonado JE, Dearing MD (2020) The secret social lives of African crested rats, Lophiomys imhausi. Journal of Mammalogy. 6:1680-1691.
  • Orr TJ, Kitanovic S, Schramm KM, Skopec MM, Wilderman PR, Halpert JR, Dearing MD (2020) Strategies in herbivory by mammals revisited: The role of liver metabolism in a juniper specialist (Neotoma stephensi) and a generalist (Neotoma albigula). Molecular Ecology. doi: 10.1111/mec.15431.
  • Martinez-Mota R, Kohl KD, Orr TJ, Dearing MD (2020) Natural diets promote retention of the native gut microbiota in captive rodents. The ISME Journal. 14(1):67-78. doi:10.1038/s41396-019-0497-6.

Courses Taught

  • Biol 3415: Ecology laboratory
  • Biol 5370: Mammology
  • Biol 7964: Boot Camp