Jenny Sung with stick insect

Jenny Sung, PhD Student

I am fascinated by questions about how animals perceive the world around them, particularly in how they communicate and interact with conspecifics. My current research in the Morehouse lab investigates the visual perception, behavioral ecology, and evolution of paradise jumping spiders (genus Habronattus) and their colorful, species-specific faces. 

I received my undergraduate degrees in Biology and Spanish from Berry College, where I got to immerse in the local wildlife and nature on the largest campus in the world as I trained in science, education, and community buildingIn my spare time, I enjoy playing ukulele and violahiking and exploring with my dog, and discovering visual artworks.

2018-present PhD Candidate, Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

2016-2018 Research Technician, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, MO

2012-2016 BS Biology, Spanish minor, Berry College, Mount Berry, GA 

Jenny Sung in the field

Current Research

Across animal systems, the face is specifically an information-rich region that may communicate identity, individual quality, and intention for visually guided species, e.g. primates, sheep, paper wasps, and jumping spiders. How are faces viewed differently compared to other complex objects in the environment? What facial features are critical for facial recognition? What function does facial morphology serve in an ecological context? How has facial ornaments diversified under different community makeup? These are questions I explore using the Habronattus paradise jumping spiders, a genus with a particularly high diversity of species-specific facial patterns and colorationsI utilize a variety of techniques, including gaze tracking (in collaboration with the Beth Jakob lab at UMASS), video playbacks, live pair interactionshyperspectral measurements, and computer vision analyses. 

Prior Research

CRISPR/Cas9 and troglomorphic adaptations in the blind Mexican cave fish 

Principal Investigator: Nicolas RohnerStowers Institute for Medical Research 

The blind Mexican cave fish naturally exists in two morphotypes: a regular surface morph and a blind, depigmented, phenotypically diabetic cave morphAs a research technician in the Rohner lab, I primarily established CRISPR/Cas9 genome-engineering in zebrafish and the blind Mexican cave fish (Astyanax mexicanus). Additionally, I investigated troglomorphic adaptations of cave vs. surface fish through a series of experiments (e.g. high fat diet metabolism, depigmentation, fin regeneration, eye development, insulin resistance, appetite, iridophore development). 


Neuromast expansion and cranial bone fragmentation in the blind Mexican cavefish

Advisor: Joshua B. GrossUniversity of Cincinnati

The cave morphotype exhibits both a heightened number of cranial neuromasts and natural fragmentations to their largest cranial bone (suborbital-3), dividing the bone into 2+ pieces. As a NSF-REU, I quantified the number of bone fragmentationand neuromast numbers in captive bred surface-dwelling fish and Pachón cavefish using vital fluorescent dyes. I found interactions between fragmentation patterns and increased neuromast numbers. 

Epigenetic effects of diet and exercise in fruit flies

Advisor: Christopher J. Mingone, Berry College

For my undergraduate research project, I investigated the effects of parental high fat diet on subsequent generations and whether exercise may mitigate the maleffects using Drosophila melanogaster. We fed parental generations a high fat diet and quantified developmental noise of F1 and F2 generations through sternopleural bristle asysmmetry. Additionally, we regulated exercise by using a custom-made ‘fly treadmill’ created in collaboration with the Berry College engineering department. For F1 and F2 flies whose parents and/or grandparents were on high fat diet, we found increased asymmetry in sternopleural bristle counts, though exercise did not seem to reduce this asymmetry.

Science Communication


Sung, J.Y.*, Harris, O.K.*, Hensley, N.M.Chemero, A.P., and Morehouse, N.I. 2021. Beyond cognitive templates: re-examining template metaphors used for animal recognition and navigationIntegrative and Comparative Biology. In review. *co-first-authorship 

Riddle, M.R.Aspiras, A.C.Gaudenz, K.Peuß, R.Sung, J.Y., Martineau, B., Peavey, M., Box, A.Tabin, J.A.McGaugh, S.Borowsky, R.Tabin, C.J., and Rohner, N. 2018. Insulin resistance in cavefish as an adaptation to a nutrient-limited environment. Nature 555:647651. doi:10.1038/nature26136