Associate Professor of Animal Behavior
Her research interests are in the areas of animal social behavior and communication. She is particularly interested in multisensory signaling: how and why animals (including humans) combine signals from multiple sensory channels during communication.
She has studied these and related questions in observational studies of wild African elephants; rhesus macaques; squirrels and lizards; and in controlled laboratory studies of birds and dolphins.
Partan is currently creating mechanized animals that simulate animal displays to use in field playback experiments that combine the rigor of laboratory experiments with the natural setting of the field environment.
This class will cover research methods for observing, coding, and analyzing animal behavior. We will practice behavior sampling and recording techniques on both domestic animals at the farm and wild animals in the campus woods. Behaviors observed will include social behavior, foraging and communication behavior. Students will carry out independent team projects on a species either in the Hampshire woods or the Farm, and will be expected to consult the primary scientific literature to learn about their species. We will examine how to summarize, analyze, and present data. Students will work with spreadsheets and make graphs to present their data, as well as calculate inter-observer reliability scores. Papers and presentations will be due for each project.
Animals, Robots and Applied Design: This is a hands-on course in which students will create mechanical animal models based on their observations of live animal behaviors. Mechanical models of animals are used in both art and science. Students will learn animal observation techniques, design and fabrication skills, basic electronics and simple programming. This is a class for students with skills or interests in any of the following: electronics, robotics, animal behavior, programming, metal, wood or plastics fabrication. This will be a highly collaborative setting in which students will be responsible for sharing their own specialized skills. Students can expect introductory assignments to learn basic skills, followed by a term project. We will also examine work being done by scientists and artists who combine the study of animals with robotics and mechanical design.
Worried about climate change and how we will live sustainably in the future? Join us to brainstorm and assess solutions together. This will be a course for first and second year students interested in learning how to evaluate potential solutions to current local and global environmental and social problems. The course will be co-taught by faculty across the curriculum at Hampshire and will include both large lectures and breakout working groups. The course will be divided into modules focused on specific problems and potential solutions, such as how the arts can help educate and engage the public in making positive changes for sustainable living; why humans are so resistant to changing our habits; whether excess greenhouse gases can be safely stored via carbon sequestration; and how we might ameliorate losses to biodiversity due to climate change. In addition to engagement in readings, lectures, discussion and activities, small teams of students will be expected to explore a problem in greater depth and present their ideas to the class at the end of the term.
The goal of this class is to build a long-term database of animal diversity on Hampshire property. The rationale for this goal is that our environment, both local and global, is dramatically changing, and it is of utmost importance to document biodiversity now before we lose species we may not have realized were here. Students in this exploratory class will work together to learn to identify and document our local fauna. We will spend a good deal of time exploring our woods to learn together about what is there. We will also examine how long-term databases are used by other research groups, explore citizen science research projects, and add our data to our own citizen science database project. Students with experience or interest in natural history, animal identification, and computer databases are particularly encouraged to join the class.