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.
Some of my work has focused on movement behavior and the factors that drive patterns in things such as migration or selecting habitats for foraging. To do this, I use several tracking technologies that involve attaching small tags to animals that can give location, speed, and direction. For instance, I have studied how different-sized adult male alligators interact with each other using radio-telemetry. I have also used satellite telemetry to look at how alligators use tides to move downstream in the coastal Everglades. In addition, my acoustic telemetry work revealed that juvenile sharks evacuated a nursery area before a major hurricane.