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 is the first of a two-course sequence exploring the main theoretical ideas and methods of ethology, the scientific study of animal behavior. In this first semester we explore the functional and evolutionary bases of animal behavior and cognition, including altruism, social behavior, communication, and anti-predator behavior. Students will also learn and put into practice some of the ways that ethologists observe, record and measure behavior outdoors in the natural world. The main reading and discussion material for the course will be drawn from the first half of John Alcock's textbook, Animal Behavior, supplemented by journal articles from the professional scientific literature. Two summary/critique papers on the journal articles will be required, along with a report on a public lecture relevant to the themes of the course, and a full-length term paper on a species and research topic of the student's choosing. The final project will be presented to the whole class either orally or in a poster session. Subsequent enrollment in the second semester of the sequence is encouraged but not required.
Although previous students and classes have studied various aspects of biodiversity in the Hampshire Woods over the years, much of the data they collected tends to be lost with the passing of time. The goal of this class is to take the first steps toward building a long-term database of animal diversity on Hampshire property. The rationale for this goal is that the earth's climate is near the beginning of likely dramatic upcoming changes, 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 figure out a plan for documenting biodiversity. We will examine how long-term databases are used by other research groups, set up a pilot database of our own, and will spend a good deal of time exploring our woods to learn together about what is there. Students with experience or interest in natural history, animal identification, and computer databases are particularly encouraged to join the class.
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 guest lectures from experts in the field of climate change and sustainability. 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.
In this first-year tutorial we will discover how animal behavior research is conducted. Particular focus will be paid to two research areas: animal communication, and behavioral responses to climate change. We will spend time learning to understand primary journal articles that present empirical research in these two areas. Not a lot is known yet about how animals respond, behaviorally, to climate change, so we will explore ideas about how this might be studied. Students will also be exposed to research currently being conducted by animal behavior faculty at Hampshire College, and will have the opportunity to become apprentices on these projects. Expectations include a willingness to try different tasks associated with research projects, including working both indoors at the computer or library and outdoors conducting fieldwork. Evaluations will be based on participation as well as written work and oral presentations.