- BA, Dartmouth College, Dual: Biology (Ecology and Evolution) and Religion
- MS, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
- PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
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 have just begun a pilot project to see if wildlife, particularly canids, react differently to novel objects depending upon whether the animals live in small urban fragments or more remote forest habitat. We capture the behavior with video trail-cameras. Watch for random plastic flamingos (our novel object) in the woods!
I also examine fine-scale habitat use and population dynamics of wildlife in relation to human landscape features. I have a long-term project monitoring Ambystoma salamanders at a major migration road crossing in the area. Using RFID (microchipping) technology and automated readers in the field, we track the appearance of salamanders at the road each spring as they move to and from their breeding area. 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. We hope it will inform developing approaches to help ensure wetlands near roads provide high quality habitat to the amphibians who use them.
It isn't just roads that affect wildlife movement, and my lab has been investigating how recreation trails act as movement barriers for wild mice. In the summer and fall we mark-recapture mice to determine how often they cross the paths.
Student Research in my Lab