Research

Research Interests and Active Projects

I specialize in studying the behavior and ecology of terrestrial mammals. My research has focused on the evolution of social behaviors, predator-prey interactions, seed dispersal, urban ecology, movement ecology, disease ecology, animal social networks and other topics. A consitant theme in my work has been how ecology affects the behavior of animals and vice versa.

Ecology of feral cats in the Queensland wet tropics. In 2016 I am starting a project with the goal of better understanding the ecological role of feral cats in the wet tropics region of Queensland, Australia. We will use camera traps to determine the abundance and ecological impact feral cats have on different ecosystems in the wet tropics region. This project will likely use GPS collars to better understand feral cat habitat selection and predator behavior.

Comparative Movement Ecology. In 2015, we started work on a NSF funded study to study the movement ecology of five sympatric neotropical mammals (with Margaret Crofoot, Roland Kays, and Damien Caillaud). Many ecological models of animal movement are based on random search strategies, but frugivores often use prior knowledge of fruit tree locations. These travel patterns often resemble the “traplining” behavior of nectivores. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine how animals make travel decisions between known food patches because it is typically impossible to map all potential food resources. We plan to take advantage of the sharply seasonal fruiting patterns in Panama to study the movement ecology of five frugivorous mammal species when only one species of tree produces ripe fruit (Dipteryx panamensis). Using aerial photos, we have constructed a complete map of fruiting trees available to mammals during Dec-Feb. We will place GPS collars on five species of mammals (coatis, capuchins, kinkajous, spider monkeys, peccaries) and document their travel patterns and fruit tree visitations. This project will use cutting edge methods such as: a) construction of resource maps through drone based remote sensing, b) near-infrared reflectance spectrometry to determine fruit nutrient content, and c) measuring activity/behavior through accelerometer sensors. We will then determine how and why species level differences in cognition and other factors (locomotor costs, sociality, etc..) influence movement behavior by comparing observed patterns to individual based computer models.

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