Patty Brennan

  • Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Patricia Brennan

Patricia (Patty) Brennan is interested in the morphological evolution of genital morphology in vertebrates, and the mechanisms that drive genital diversification, sexual conflict in particular.  She has a BSc in Marine Biology from her native Colombia, where she studied cardiac physiology of marine mammals. She went on to work in the Galapagos Islands aboard a research vessel (R/V Odyssey).  Brennan completed her Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell University, where she studied the breeding biology and reproductive system of the Great Tinamou (Tinamus major), a basal bird from south america related to the ostrich.  During this time she developed an interest on post-copulatory selection in birds, and went on to do her post-doctoral work on genital and sperm traits in ducks.  Her current interests have expanded to understanding genital evolution in vertebrates, in particular examining female genital morphology and coevolution. She worked as a research professor at Umass Amherst before joining the faculty at Mount Holyoke College.

Brennan’s research has received much media attention and she has become very interested in public outreach and education, and is an advocate (in print and lectures) of the importance of science communication and defense of basic science.

Areas of Expertise

Morphological evolution of reproductive structures, sexual conflict, post-copulatory sexual selection.

Education

  • Ph.D., Cornell University
  • B.Sc., Universidad de Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano

Happening at Mount Holyoke

Recent Campus News

Mount Holyoke researcher Patrica Brennan’s research found that dolphin clitorises have more in common with the human organ than previously known.

Mount Holyoke expert Patricia Brennan explains that both males and females benefit from the thorny genital arms race in seed beetles.

Anuses segregate babies from back ends, says Patricia Brennan, Mount Holyoke College assistant professor of biology.

Recent Grants

Patricia Brennan received a grant from the National Science Foundation for the project 'CAREER: Integrating Form and Function in the Coevolution of Copulatory Traits. The project is for five years (2021).

Recent Publications

Lara Granados, G. Greenwood, J. Secor, S. Hedrick, B. and P.L.R. Brennan. 2022. 3-D examination of the genital morphology of male and female diamond watersnakes Nerodia rhombipher. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 10.1093/biolinnean/blac051

Brennan, P.L.R., Cowart, J. and D. O. Orbach. 2022. Functional morphology of the dolphin clitoris. Current Biology. 31: R1-R3.

Poo, S., Whitfield, S., Watkins-Colwell, G., Gil, N., Goodwin, J, Brennan, P.L.R., … Chakrabarthi, P. 2022. Bridging the research gap between live collections in zoos and preserved collections in natural history museums. Bioscience. doi:10.1093/biosci/biac022

Brennan, P.L.R., Sterett, M. [MHC '20]., DiBuono, M.[MHC '20], Lara Granados, G. [MHC '21]. Klo, K.[MHC '20], Marsden, R.[MHC '20], Schleinig, P.[MHC '19], Tanner, L[MHC '19]. and S. Purdy. 2021. Intra-horn penile intromission in the alpaca and consequences to genital morphology. Integrative and Comparative Biology. DOI: 10.1093/icb/icab050, pp:1-10

Orbach, D.O. Brassey, C. Gardiner, J and Brennan, P.L.R. (2021)3D Genital Shape Complexity in Female Marine Mammals. Ecology and Evolution. 00:1-9. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.7269. 

Recent Honors

Patricia Brennan gave departmental seminars on her research at University of California Riverside (February 17, 2022), and at Michigan State University (March 15, 2022).

Was interviewed for the podcast Mujeres en Ciencia, an initiative from Colombian Biologists.

Gave departmental seminars on her research on sexual conflict and genital evolution at the OEB graduate program at UMass, and at George Mason University (March 25 and April 8, 2022).

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