Professor Daniel Ardia is an engaging, rigorous, and outstanding educator and scholar whose wide-ranging research program has earned international recognition. Dan's research integrates evolutionary biology, behavior, physiology, and natural history. Although his scholarship has contributed to each of these areas of biology, his work on the interactions among stress hormone levels, immune system function, and reproductive effort in birds and fish has had the largest impact. In particular, Dan's research has revealed that the bright mating coloration displayed by male songbirds and some fishes comes at the cost of decreased immune system function and a greater risk of illness and disease. He and colleagues have also discovered that acute bouts of stress, and the concomitant increase in stress hormone levels, during brooding behavior in female songbirds may have subtle, yet significant, effects on clutch size and egg size, and also upon the body size and health of the nestlings.
One of Dan's many strengths is the ability to work locally, nationally, and globally, sometimes alone or with a small group of students, but also at times with a large team of collaborating scientists. Close to home, he and his students have investigated the effects of urbanization and land-use patterns on the behavior of red foxes and other carnivores, as well as the effects of nest temperature on immune function and overall health on songbirds in Lancaster County Park. Farther afield, he has conducted research on four continents, and recently led a $2.5-million, multi-investigator federal grant to study the biology, ecology, reproduction, and life history of migratory swallow species in the Americas.
Dan's more than 60 peer-reviewed publications have been cited over 4,000 times, and he has successfully supported his research with three large grants from the National Science Foundation. Measures of his impact on biology, however, extend beyond publications and grant funding. He was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society (AOS), formerly the American Ornithologists' Union, in recognition of his exceptional and sustained contributions to ornithology. The AOS is the oldest and largest ornithological society in the U.S., and other notable fellows include the first Curator of Birds at the Smithsonian, Robert Ridgway, and well-known zoologist, naturalist, and ethnographer Clinton Hart Merriam.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Dan's scholarly activity is his ability to involve students in meaningful ways in research. Since arriving at F&M in 2006, he has mentored 84 students in independent research projects during academic years and summers, and in locations ranging from Lancaster to Wyoming to Alaska. One key to his ability to provide transformative intellectual experiences to students is that he masterfully balances guidance with independence all while retaining rigor and collegiality. As one student wrote, “…working in Dr. Ardia's lab was one of the most valuable learning experiences I have had at Franklin and Marshall… I never felt as if I was simply a research assistant working for Dan, but I felt as if I was working with him.”