Assistant Professor of Animal Behavior
Her research focuses on social behavior and communication of cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Her current projects focus on a wide range of species, including blue whales, fin whales, pilot whales, and bottlenose dolphins, and are both applied (e.g., looking at effects of anthropogenic noise on communication) and basic (e.g., looking at call structure and function). Given the challenges of studying species that spend most of their lives underwater, she is involved in research that utilizes new technologies, such as non-invasive tags, to study cetacean communication systems.
The diverse and seemingly complex vocalizations of whales and dolphins (cetaceans) have long fascinated people and have led to suggestions of "language"-like communication. We will take a "deep dive" into what is actually known (and not known) about cetacean communication in this course, through readings and discussions of current scientific literature. We will also do hands-on analyses of existing bioacoustic data sets, recorded from a variety of cetacean species, such as blue whales, pilot whales, and several dolphin species. Students will be expected to actively participate in and lead some class discussions. Each student or team of students will choose one aspect of data analysis on which to focus, and will develop that analysis into a research project that will include a final paper in publishable format. In addition, each student or team will present their work to the entire class.
This course will survey the main theoretical ideas in animal behavior. We will explore physiological, developmental, functional and evolutionary bases of behavior as well as issues in the study of communication and cognition. The main reading and discussion material for the course will be John Alcock's textbook, "Animal Behavior: an Evolutionary Approach". Readings will also be drawn from journal articles in the professional scientific literature, and emphasis will be given to studies focusing on marine mammals where appropriate. Students will be expected to be active participants in class discussions. In addition, students will give presentations and write summary/critique papers on two journal articles, and prepare a final project (format to be determined) on a research topic of the student's choosing, which will be presented to the whole class.
Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are often considered to be among the smartest creatures on Earth. Popular accounts abound of tool use, self-recognition, name-like signals, complex songs, and intricate societies. But what do we really know? We will read scientific literature as well as a recent book about the topic, "Deep Thinkers," and discuss topics such as brain size and structure, cognition, communication, social behavior, culture, tool use, and conservation issues relevant to cetaceans. We will compare so-called intelligence markers of cetaceans with those of birds, bats, and primates, and discuss if and how intelligence might be defined in nonhumans. Students will be expected to actively participate in class discussions. In addition, students will give presentations and write summary/critique papers on two journal articles, and prepare a final project on a research topic of the student's choosing, which will be presented to the whole class.