Many of us make numerous conscious decisions about how we get around each day. We determine what we need to do, and where we need to go. Then, we decide how we’ll get there. Perhaps we’ll take the car to drop the kids off at the bus stop, and then squeeze in grocery shopping before work. As we execute these movements, we use the information provided by our thoughts and senses. We stop suddenly in the middle of a road to let a deer get out of the way. We take a new route because the usual one is full of traffic. We remember the birthday card we were supposed to send to our mom, and walk over to the post office after stopping for groceries.
Animals as diverse as sponges, eagles, sea horses, wolves and whales face similar problems as they accomplish the things they need to do every day. A sponge larvae might need to find a good place to settle down and grow for the rest of its life, or a wolf and its pack might search for a moose, for example. Along the way, these animals must make decisions that often have life-or-death consequences. But often, they must make them without the visual, auditory, tactile and mental systems we rely on.
Fundamentally, I am motivated to understand how animals with relatively limited sensory and neurological capabilities find food and mates, leave home and return again, and perform long-distance migrations in variable environments. In other words:
How do relatively simple animals survive and thrive in complex and variable environments?
To get at this issue, I employ a diverse set of field, lab and computer-based methods. I strive to improve our understanding of animal movement from ecological, biomechanical and behavioral perspectives, and explore the application of my work to both scientific theory and conservation.
More about me:
I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Auckland’s Leigh Marine Laboratory, in New Zealand. In spring 2017, I earned my Ph.D. at Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University. As part of Dr. Mark Denny’s research group, I explored the ways that small-scale environmental variation influences the foraging behavior of intertidal limpets.
Now, in collaboration with Dr. Nick Shears, Dr. Craig Radford and Dr. Simon Thrush, I am continuing to pursue similar questions in the subtidal lobster, Jasus edwardsii. We are planning and executing an acoustic tagging study that will explore how lobster in the Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve move with respect to the rugosity of their surroundings, their patchily-distributed food resources and the boundaries of the reserve, beyond which fishing pressure is high. In addition, we will be conducting a mass mark-recapture experiment to determine important demographic information about the lobster population in the reserve. Both of these projects will broaden our understanding of lobster ecology, physiology and behavior, and provide information crucial to the conservation and management of the species.