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Tracey K. Brown, Ph.D.

Tracey K. Brown, Ph.D.

Professor of Biological Sciences

Tracey K. Brown, Ph.D.

Dr. Brown joined the Biology faculty at CSUSM in Fall 2002 after conducting postdoctoral work at the center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species at the San Diego Zoo.  Dr. Brown’s current research involves various aspects of conservation, restoration and physiological ecology of vertebrates, with a focus on native reptiles.


B.A. University of California, Berkeley

Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles


My research interests stem from a curiosity of the intricate relationship between an animal and its environment.  How do species respond to environmental perturbations? What characteristics enable some species to survive when faced with habitat disturbance and fragmentation, while others disappear?  Which biotic or abiotic habitat features are critical to the survival of certain species?  What traits allow introduced species to become “pests”?  These are examples of the broad ecological and conservation questions I find interesting.

To date, my research projects have focused on various aspects of reptile biology ranging from physiological ecology to conservation and management.  Although reptiles constitute an important part of many ecosystems, they often do not receive as much public or scientific attention in the conservation arena as do other vertebrates.  In fact, certain species such as rattlesnakes may be intentionally persecuted.  By conducting intensive field studies of model reptile species, I hope to provide published scientific information that will facilitate the conservation of reptile species in management programs.   My current research projects largely encompass three areas:

  1. Energetics of Foraging Mode & Growth in Reptiles
  2. Red Diamond Rattlesnake Ecology
  3. Horned Lizard Ecology


  • BIO 211 - Intro. to Organismal and Pop. Biology
  • BIO 338 - Human Impact on the Environment
  • BIO 354 - Principles of Ecology
  • BIO 363 -Conservation Biology
  • BIO 400/400L - Vertebrate Biology
  • BIO 505 - Physiological Ecology


Current Master's Students

Ken Morgan is completing a study of the foraging ecology of Blainville's Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii).  His study involved behavioral observations of foraging by individual horned lizard with respect to the distribution of their prey of harvester ants.

Previous Master's Students

asiatic wild dog
Jennifer Keating
Janene Colby

 Janene Colby (2008) compared home range size estimates based on VHF and GPS radio-collar technology of Southern Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus fuliginatus) in the Peninsular Ranges of southern California. She is now a biologist with Cal. Fish and Game. Thesis title: Comparison of VHF and GPS data from radio-collared female mule deer : location error, home range attributes, and habitat selection.

Bethany Prinicipe (2009) studied the over-wintering habits of Southwestern Pond Turtles (Clemmys marmorata) using radio-telemetry to track turtles in both San Diego (Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve) and Riverside (Santa Rosa Plateau) Counties to determine their annual movement patterns and locations of hibernacula.  She is currently working for the Mission Resource Conservation District in Fallbrook, CA. Thesis title: Population demographics and overwintering ecology of southern California Pacific pond turtles, Actinemys (Clemmys) marmorata

Justin Chuven (2009) studied communication behavior in Asiatic Wild Dogs (Cuon alpinus).  Very little is known about this endangered species, and Justin researched social communication among pack members and the ability to recognize foreign pack members.  He is now working for the Al Ain Wildlife Park in the United Arab Emirates. Thesis title: Behavioral responses of the Chinese dhole (Cuon alpinus lepturus) to conspecific and prey vocalizations.

Brian Greco (2011) conducted learning trials with African elephants to test the degree of social learning.  He is now working on his Ph.D. at UC Davis.  Thesis title: Social learning in captive adult African Elephants. 

Jennifer Keating (2011) conducted an acoustical study using Raven of the vocalizations made during mating encounters of Giant panda in China and at the San Diego Zoo.  She is now employed by Southwest Fisheries Science Center.  Thesis title: Implications of vocalizations during giant panda breeding encounters.

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