Hugh Lefcort, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology

I am a behavioral ecologist interested in ecotoxicology and the effects of pollution on prey anti-predatory behaviors. My students and I study the behavioral effects of heavy metal pollution from hard rock mines on the fright response of ostracods (seed...

Dr. Hugh Lefcort

Contact Information

Education & Curriculum Vitae

Ph.D., Zoology, Oregon State University, 1993

B.A., Anthropology, University of Washington, 1985

Courses Taught

ENVS 200

BIOL 106

BIOL 205

BIOL 206

BIOL 313

BIOL 399

BIOL 499


I am a behavioral ecologist interested in ecotoxicology and the effects of pollution on prey anti-predatory behaviors. My students and I study the behavioral effects of heavy metal pollution from hard rock mines on the fright response of ostracods (seed shrimp). Recently we have been looking at how a global rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide may be altering the responses of the animals by making water more acidic. I am always looking for diligent and intellectually curious students to become a part of the lab for research projects.

Refereed Publications (* Gonzaga Undergraduates)

Lefcort, H and Kotler, BP. 2017. Life in a near-future atmosphere: carbon dioxide enrichment increases plant growth and alters the behavior of a terrestrial snail but not a terrestrial beetle. Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution 63:33-38. 

Lefcort, H, Cleary, DA, Marble, AM*, Phillips, MV*, Stoddard, TJ*, Tuthill, LM, & Winslow, JR. 2015. Snails from heavy-metal polluted environments have reduced sensitivity to carbon dioxide-induced acidity. SpringerPlus 4:1-9.

Lefcort, H and Lefcort, C. 2014. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) seeds are still viable after laundry cycle. Natural Areas Journal 34:505-508.

Lefcort, H, Wehner, EA*, Cocco, PL*. 2013. Pre-exposure to heavy metal pollution and the odor of predation reduce the ability of snails to avoid stressors. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 64:273-280.

Lefcort, H and Pettoello, CL.* 2012. White tailed deer are associated with the spread of exotic forbs. Natural Areas Journal 32:159-165.

Lefcort, H, Humphries, A*, Tordillos, K *, Vancura, J* Wood, S.* 2012. Aquatic snails detect and avoid both heavy metals and fright odor on sand substrates. In: Snails: Biology, Ecology and Conservation. Ed: Hamalainen, E. M. and Jarvinen, S. Nova Science Publishing, Happauge, NY. Pages 163-172. ISBN: 978-1-62100-816-3.

Lefcort, H, Vancura, J*, and Lider, E. 2010. 75 Years after mining ends stream insect diversity is still affected by heavy metals. Ecotoxicology 19:1416-1425.

Lefcort, H, Freedman, Z*, House, S* and Pendleton, M.* 2008. Hormetic effects of heavy metals in aquatic snails: Is a little bit of pollution good? EcoHealth 5:10-17.

Lefcort, H, Ben-Ami, F, Heller, J. 2006. Terrestrial snails use predator-diet to assess danger. Journal of Ethology 24:97-102.

Lefcort, H, Abbott, D*, Cleary, D, Howell*, E, Keller*, N, Smith*, M.* 2004. Aquatic snails from mining sites have evolved to detect and avoid heavy metals. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 46:478-484.

McLaughlin N*, McLaughlin D, Lefcort H. 2003. The influence of socio-economic factors on Helicobacter pylori infection rates of students in rural Zambia. Central African Journal of Medicine, 49:38-41.

Lefcort, H, and Eiger, S. 2003. Prepatory vs. practice homework: A test using university biology students. Journal of College Science Teaching 33:16-18.

Lefcort, H, Aguon, M*, Bond, K*, Chapman, K*, Chaquette, R*, Clark, J*, Kornachuk, P*, Lang, B, Martin, J.* 2002. Indirect Effects of Heavy Metals on Parasites May Cause Shifts in Snail Species Compositions. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 43:34-41.

Lefcort, H, Ammann, E*, Eiger, S. M. 2000. Antipredatory behavior as an index of heavy-metal pollution? A test using snails and caddisflies. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 38:311-316.

 Lefcort, H, Thomson, S*, Cowles, E*, Harowicz, H*, Livaudais, B*, Roberts, W, & Ettinger, W. 1999. Ramification of predator avoidance: predator and heavy metal mediated competition between tadpoles and snails. Ecological Applications 9:1477-1489.

Lefcort, H, Meguire, R*, Wilson, L*, & Ettinger, W. F. 1998. Heavy metals alter the survival, growth, metamorphosis, and antipredatory behavior of Columbia spotted frog (Rana luteiventris) tadpoles. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 35:447-456.

Lefcort, H. 1998. A chemically mediated fright-response in southern toad, Bufo terrestris, tadpoles. Copeia 1998:445-450.

Lefcort, H., Hancock, K., Maur, K. & Rostal, D. 1997. The effects of used motor oil and silt on the growth, survival, and the ability to detect predators by tiger salamanders, Ambystoma tigrinum. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 32:383-388.

Lefcort, H. and Durden, L. 1996. The effect of infection with Lyme disease spirochetes (Borrelia burgdorferi) on the phototaxis, activity, and questing height of the tick vector Ixodes scapularis. Parasitology 113: 97-103.

Lefcort, H. 1996. An adaptive, chemically mediated fright response in tadpoles of the southern leopard frog, Rana utricularia. Copeia, 1996:455-459.

Lefcort, H. and Blaustein, A. 1995. Disease, predator avoidance, and vulnerability to predation in tadpoles. Oikos, 74:469-474.

Lefcort, H. and Eiger, S. 1993. Antipredatory behaviour of feverish tadpoles: implications for pathogen transmission. Behaviour 126:13-47.

Wilson, D. and Lefcort, H. 1993. The effect of predator diet on the alarm response of red legged frog (Rana aurora) tadpoles. Animal Behaviour 46:1017-1019.

Zhang, L. and Lefcort, H. 1991. The effect of ploidy level on the thermal distributions of brine shrimp Artemia parthenogenetica. Heredity 66:445-452.

Lefcort, H.; Zhang, L. & King, C. 1991. Distributions of diploid and pentaploid brine shrimp Artemia parthenogenetica in an illuminated thermal gradient. Canadian Journal of Zoology 69:2461-2465.

Lefcort, H., Hokit, D, Beatty, J. and Hakelev, C. 1991. Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi (Valley Garter Snake) feeding behavior. Herpetological Review 22:101.

Lefcort, H. and Blaustein, A. 1991. Parasite load and brightness in lizards: an interspecific test of the Hamilton and Zuk hypothesis. Journal of Zoology (London) 224:491-499.

Lefcort, H. and Bayne, C. 1991. Temperature distributions of resistant and susceptible strains of Biomphalaria glabrata (Gastropoda) exposed to Schistosoma mansoni. Parasitology 103:357-362.

Blaustein, A. R., Chang, K. S., Lefcort, H. G., and R. K. O'Hara. 1990. Toad tadpole kin recognition: recognition of half siblings and the role of maternal cues. Ethology, Ecology and Evolution 2:215-226.

  • Predator-Prey Behavior
  • Exotoxicology

Our research using ostracods (seed shrimp) comes about due to the threat of high levels of carbon dioxide that humans are releasing. Carbon dioxide in water is converted to carbonic acid which along with dissolved CO2 can alter a prey's fright responses to predators and increase the metabolic cost of calcifying shells.  Most attention has been directed at marine creatures where a 0.1 unit decrease in pH since the industrial revolution has been noted. Less buffered freshwater systems can exhibit much greater changes. We study how the effects of rising CO2 levels interact with existing local environmental stressors such as heavy metal mining pollution.