The power of one
Just like people, animals are individuals and vary in their behaviors. Thinking about a population or group of animals as one unit doesn't always capture what is actually going on in nature. My work investigates how animals make decisions such as how to avoid predators, when to move to better areas for food, or where to get some shade on a hot day. Not surprisingly, animals vary in their learned and innate behaviors and do different things even when supplied with similar pieces of information. Understanding these aspects of an animal's behavior and the factors that influence their decisions can provide both insight and context into their functional role in the ecosystem.
I am really interested in understanding the environmental and biological drivers of spatial distributions, behavior, and population dynamics of animals. I would like to know how landscape-level differences in prey availability or large-scale environmental disturbances affect movement patterns and the selection of foraging spots.
I use tracking technologies that involve attaching small tags to animals that can give location, speed, and direction. I have tagged and tracked hundreds of animals and multiple species in many different environments, and each study poses a neat challenge. For instance, I have used satellite tags to look at how alligators use tides to move downstream in the coastal Everglades. In other work, I revealed that juvenile sharks and common snook used changes in water pressure to evacuate a shallow water estuary before a major hurricane.