Alexander R. Gerson, Ph.D.

Integrative Environmental Physiology

Avian Migration Physiology, Avian Heat Tolerance, Animal Energetics


Dr. Alexander R. Gerson -  PI

I investigate the physiological adaptations associated with migration and heat tolerance in birds. I focus primarily at the organismal level but I integrate across many levels of organization to fully understand physiological responses to environmental perturbations. See my current research page for more!

Dr. Derrick Groom - Postdoc

Derrick joined us in the Fall of 2016 after completing a PhD at the University of Toronto, Scarborough with Dr. Ken Welch. His previous work primarily focused on hummingbird flight performance across elevations and the variation in hovering metabolic rates and morphology across species. Prior to that, he worked on hypoxia tolerance in fishes and estivation in frogs at the University of British Columbia under Dr. Jeff Richards. Derrick currently studies how environmental variation affects fuel selection during flight, and how long-distance flight impacts the metabolism and physiology of birds during stopover.

Mariamar Gutierrez Ramirez - PhD Student


Mariamar started her PhD in the fall of 2015 after successfully completing a MSc. at Delaware State University.  Mariamar is using automated telemetry to assess the role of body condition and habitat quality on stopover duration during spring on the North Gulf Coast.

Michael Griego - PhD Student


Michael received a B.S. in Biology and Psychology at the University of New Mexico in 2014 and started his PhD at UMass Amherst in the OEB program in Fall 2016.  As an undergraduate he studied avian physiological responses to heat stress; thus beginning his deep love affair for desert ecosystems. When he isn’t thinking about birds, he’s coming up with excuses to go outside and play in the dirt. In the Gerson lab, he is studying the environmental physiology of migratory birds, focusing on the metabolism of migratory birds during stopover.

Cory Elowe - PhD Student


After Cory received his B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Bowdoin College in 2011, he spent two years in the field with the Bureau of Land Management, The Nature Conservancy, and Bird Research Northwest. He finally settled down to conduct his Master’s research in the Environmental Proteomics Lab at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. Cory is now studying the physiological mechanisms of fuel use in response to varying environmental conditions during migratory flight in birds.

Sarah Deckel - MSc. Student (Co-advised with Dr. Dave King)


After finishing her B.S. in Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Rhode Island in 2015, Sarah worked on multiple projects with UMass involving bird population ecology before starting her master’s in 2018. Her project involves influences of diet and breeding success of Swainson’s thrush along an elevational gradient where she will be working within the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire.



Bradely Pedro (2017-2019)

Caitlyn Glidden(2018-2019)

Katie  Hogan (2018 - 2019)

John Papacostas (2017-2019)

Mustafa Yildirim (2017 - 2019)

Felipe Pina (2017-2019)

Jiun Tseng (2018-2019)

Lucnalie Jironvil (STEM AP 2018-2019)




Caspian Moreno (summer 2018)

Gabriella Dasso (2018)

Bryanna Freitas (STEM AP, 2017)

Avery Sage (STEM AP, 2017)

Yerkely Garcia (2017)

Tom Finlay (2017-2018)

Sana Rizvi (2015)

Maya Gelbard (2015-2016)

Sean Nelson (2015 - 2016)

Gina Benedetto (2015-2016)



Lab Alumni

Joely DeSimone - Technician (2015-2017)


Joely graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College in 2015 with a degree in Biology. As a senior, she wrote an honors thesis investigating the consequences of the ectoparasitism of blowfly larvae (Protocalliphora sialia) on nestling tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) condition and parental investment. After spending two years in the Gerson Lab she has started a PhD at the University of Montana.

Alexander R. Gerson


Department of Biology

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Amherst, MA 01003