Associate Professor of Biology


Spencer Hall 159 / ext. 1684


Behavioral ecology, evolution



Why do individuals behave differently within a population? What are the underlying causes of this behavioral variation? And does it affect survival or mating success? I study the role of the early environment in shaping behavioral variation, and how this behavioral variation then affects interactions between individuals, such as those that occur between males and females, parents and offspring, or predators and prey.

Using fishes as model species, I examine how the behavior of individuals is affected by the stress their mothers experienced in the past and/or the quality of care offspring received from their fathers. I also examine how the personalities of different individuals, be they males and females or predators and prey, can affect their interactions.


Publications (*indicates mentored undergraduate):

Bell, AM, KE McGhee, & L Stein. 2016. Effects of mothers’ and fathers’ experience with predation risk on the behavioral development of their offspring in three-spined sticklebacks. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 7: 28-32.
Carter, A, RT Paitz, KE McGhee, & RM Bowden. 2016. Turtle hatchlings show behavioral types that are robust to developmental manipulations. Physiology & Behavior 155: 46-55.

McGhee, KE, S Feng*, S Leasure #, & AM Bell. 2015. A female’s past experience with predators affects male courtship and the care her offspring will receive from their father. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 282(1819): 20151840 (# denotes mentored vet student)

Feng*, S, KE McGhee, & AM Bell. 2015. Effect of maternal predator exposure on the ability of stickleback offspring to generalize a learned colour-reward association. Animal Behaviour 107: 61-69.

Featured article highlighted by the editors

MacLeod, KJ, KE McGhee, & TH Clutton-Brock. 2015. No apparent benefits of allonursing for recipient offspring and mothers in the cooperatively breeding meerkat. Journal of Animal Ecology 84(4): 1050-1058.

McGhee, KE, & AM Bell. 2014. Paternal care in a fish: epigenetics and fitness enhancing effects on offspring anxiety. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 281(1794): 20141146.

Pintor, LM, KE McGhee, DP Roche*, & AM Bell. 2014. Individual variation in foraging behavior reveals a trade-off between flexibility and performance of a top predator. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 68(10): 1711-1722.

McGhee, KE, LM Pintor, & AM Bell. 2013. Reciprocal behavioral plasticity and behavioral types during predator-prey interactions. The American Naturalist 182(6): 704-717.

McGhee, KE, & J Travis. 2013. Heritable variation underlies behavioral types in the mating context in male bluefin killifish. Animal Behaviour 86: 513-518.

McGhee, KE, LM Pintor, EL Suhr, & AM Bell. 2012. Maternal exposure to predation risk decreases offspring antipredator behaviour and survival in threespined stickleback. Functional Ecology 26(4): 932-940.

Roche*, DP, KE McGhee, & AM Bell. 2012. Maternal predator-exposure has life-long consequences for offspring learning in three-spined stickleback. Biology Letters 8(6): 932-935.
Featured in Nature 490(8)

Heath, KD, & KE McGhee. 2012. Coevolutionary constraints? The environment alters tripartite interaction traits in a legume. PLoS ONE 7(7): e41567.

McGhee, KE, & J Travis. 2011. Early food and social environment affect certain behaviors but not female choice or male dominance in bluefin killifish. Animal Behaviour 82: 139-147.

McGhee, KE, & J Travis. 2010. Repeatable behavioral type and stable dominance rank in the bluefin killifish. Animal Behaviour 79: 497-507.

McGhee, KE, RC Fuller, & J Travis. 2007. Male competition and female choice interact to determine mating success in the bluefin killifish. Behavioral Ecology 18(5): 822-830.

Fuller, RC, KE McGhee, & M Schrader. 2007. Speciation in killifish and the role of salt tolerance. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20(5): 1962-1975

McGhee, KE. 2006. The importance of life-history stage and individual variation in the allorecognition system of a marine sponge. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology 333: 241-250.