M. Denise DEARING portrait
  • Distinguished Professor, School Of Biological Sciences

Research Summary

Ecology and evolution of dietary specialization; Nutritional ecology of herbivorous vertebrates; Mammalian and avian detoxification of plant secondary metabolites; Application of stable isotopes in ecology; Ecology of infectious disease


  • Bachelor of Science, BS, Eastern Connecticut State Univ
  • Doctor of Philosophy, DPH, University Of Utah
  • Master of Science, MS, University Of Vermont


My research focuses on ecological factors and physiological constraints that influence foraging behavior and the evolution of diet breadth in mammalian herbivores. My laboratory is currently investigating the evolution of dietary specialization in herbivores by exploring the detoxification abilities of specialist and generalist woodrats (Neotoma species). Woodrats are a model system because the diversity of specialists and generalists is unparalleled by any other genus of mammalian herbivores. Furthermore, because woodrats are closely related to laboratory rats, many of the molecular reagents designed for lab rats work on woodrats.