Steven M. Phelps

Associate Professor, Section of Integrative Biology

Lab Web Page Education | Research Interests | Instruction | Awards | Publications


Office: (512) 475-6304



  • B.S., U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1988-1992
  • M.S., U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1993-1994
  • Ph.D., U. Texas, Austin, 1994-1999

Research Interests

We are interested in the neuronal mechanisms of animal behavior and how those mechanisms evolve. The lab employs a diverse array of approaches, ranging from computational models to the molecular analysis of gene expression. This work is strongly anchored in empirical studies of animal behavior in both the laboratory and field. Using "exotic" rodent models, we focus on the nature and consequences of within- and between-species variation in neuronal gene expression and behavior. For example, we study how individual differences in the neuronal distribution of vasopressin receptors contribute to social attachment, space-use and sexual fidelity in the socially monogamous prairie vole. Another major model concerns the production and perception of advertisement songs in the singing mouse -- a project that includes neuroanatomical studies, field playbacks, and population genetic analysis of song variation. These projects involve substantial field components in both the U.S. and Central America.



  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award
  • University of Florida Academy of Distinguished Teacher-Scholars, nominee
  • NSF Center for Behavioral Neuroscience Postdoc. Fellow
  • Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow
  • University of Texas Continuing Fellow nominee, declined
  • University of Texas Tuition Fellowship
  • Dorothea Bennet Travel Fellowship, U.T. Dept. Zoology
  • Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellow
  • Dorothea Bennet Research Fellowship, U.T. Dept. Zoology
  • National Research Service Award, National Institutes of Health
  • Endowment for Excellence Fellowship, U.T. Dept. Zoology
  • Bruton Award, U.T. Graduate School
  • Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid
  • Gaige Award, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
  • National Science Foundation Undergrad. Research Fellowship
1998, 1999
1996, 1998
1995, 1998


see here for a complete list of publications (pdf)

  • S.M. Phelps, P. Campbell, D.-J. Zheng and A.G. Ophir. 2009. Beating the boojum: Comparative approaches to the neurobiology of social behavior. Neuropharmacology 58:17-28.

  • S.M. Phelps and A.G. Ophir. 2009. Monogamous brains and alternative tactics: Neuronal V1aR, space use and sexual infidelity among male prairie voles. In Cognitive Ecology II, (Reuven Dukas and John Ratcliffe Eds.) University of Chicago Press, pp156-176.

  • P. Campbell, A.G. Ophir and S.M. Phelps. 2009. Central vasopressin and oxytocin receptor distributions in two species of singing mice. Journal of Comparative Neurology 516:321-333.

  • D. Blondel, J. Pino and S.M. Phelps. 2009. Space use and social structure of the long-tailed singing mouse (Scotinomys xerampelinus). Journal of Mammalogy 90:715-723.

  • P. Campbell, R. Reep, M. Stoll, A. Ophir and S.M. Phelps. 2009. Conservation and diversity of Foxp2 expression in muroid rodents: Functional implications. Journal of Comparative Neurology 512:84-100

  • A.G. Ophir, P. Campbell, K. Hannen and S.M. Phelps. 2008. Field tests of cis-regulatory variation at the prairie vole avpr1a locus: association with V1aR abundance but not social or sexual fidelity. Hormones and Behavior 54:694-702.

  • A.G. Ophir, J.O. Wolff and S.M. Phelps. 2008. Variation in neural V1aR predicts space use and sexual fidelity among male prairie voles in semi-natural settings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105:1249-1254.

  • A.G. Ophir, A.B. Sorin, S.M. Phelps and J.O. Wolff. 2008. Social but not genetic monogamy is associated with higher breeding success in prairie voles. Animal Behavior 75:1143-1154.

  • S.M. Phelps, A.S. Rand and M.J. Ryan. 2007. The mixed-species chorus as public information: male túngara frogs eavesdrop on a heterospecific. Behavioral Ecology 18:108-114.

  • S.M. Phelps. 2007. Sensory ecology and the evolution of perceptual allocation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 362:355-367.

  • S.M. Phelps. 2006. The integrative biology of social behavior: Rodents as extended model systems. National Science Foundation Workshop Report.

  • S.M. Phelps, A.S. Rand and M.J. Ryan. 2006. The cognitive architecture of mate choice and species recognition. American Naturalist 167:28-42.

  • S.M. Phelps and L.J. Young. 2003. Extraordinary diversity in vasopressin (V1a) receptor expression in wild prairie voles: Patterns of variation and covariation. Journal of Comparative Neurology 466:564-576.

  • S.M. Phelps, M.J. Ryan and A.S. Rand. 2001. Vestigial preferences in neural networks and túngara frogs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98:13161-13166.