I am a behavioural and population ecologist with a background in mammalian behaviour and population dynamics. My driving interest is understanding the choices made at the individual animal level to explain where they are found on the landscape.
A fascinating component to this is the personality of the animal itself. I look at mammalian temperament both in the lab and in the field. In the lab, we can test animals over and over again, which helps us examine the development of behavioral tendencies, the plasticity of these behaviors, and how different temperaments may correlate with one another in the population (a phenomenon called a behavioral syndrome). Using the Siberian dwarf hamster as a model, we ask questions like, "Are socially dominant animals also the ones more likely to explore a novel environment?" and "Does exploratory tendency change with age?" In the field, we can evaluate behaviour in animals we catch, then track them in the field afterward to see if the captive behaviour relates to the behaviour patterns and space use of the animal in the wild. We are currently using chipmunks to address questions such as "Do high activity temperament animals use a larger home range?"
- Read an article in ICView: "Genius and Species: IC biologists make big breakthroughs by studying small animals" (Andy Smith, Leann Kanda, and Jean Hardwick)
I also examine fine-scale habitat selection and population dynamics of wildlife, particularly amphibians, at local wetlands. Ithaca College is responsible for mitigation wetlands on South Hill adjacent to the main campus, both new artificially built areas and natural "perched" swamps. My research lab has been primarily responsible for identifying the fauna using these areas. Non-uniform distributions of amphibians within the wetlands and the forested uplands of South Hill have driven research questions on microhabitat associations of these species. We are just developing a long term mark-recapture study on Ambystoma salamanders at these wetlands to examine population dynamics and local site fidelity.
This summer I am beginning an exciting new partnership with the Upper Susqehanna Coalition to deploy an electronic "fence" that will detect microchipped Ambystoma salamanders at a major migration road crossing in the area. Beginning next spring, we should be able to record when each tagged animal crosses each side of the road. The research aims to better understand the timing and success rate of individuals crossing the road; over the long term this will enable monitoring the salamander survival rate and evaluating whether the population is affected by road traffic and develop approaches to help ensure wetlands near roads provide high quality habitat to the amphibians who use them.
Student Research in my Lab
If you are interested in conducting research in my lab, then please check for details below:
If you need more information on the procedures to enroll for research credit, then follow this link.