Research Interests and Active Projects
I specialize in studying the behavior and ecology of terrestrial mammals. My research has focused on the evolution of social behaviors, predator-prey interactions, seed dispersal, urban ecology, movement ecology, disease ecology, animal social networks and other topics. A consistent theme in my work has been how ecology affects the behavior of animals and vice versa.
Group coordination across multiple scales. A recently funded project is a collaboration studying how animal vocalizations shape group coordination. By comparing three social carnivore species (coatis, meerkats, and hyenas) with varying levels of social cohesiveness, we will seek to understand how animals can modulate group coordination across varying spatial scales.
Population biology of feral chital deer in North Queensland. In collaboration with scientists from JCU, Queensland DAF, NSW-DPI, and CSIRO, we are studying what drives chital deer abundance, geographic spread, and population connectivity. With this work, we hope to be able to better understand what factors shaped the historical spread of this invasive species, where the population will go next, and how best to prevent further spread of deer their accompanying ecological/economic damage.
Ecology and behavior of feral cats in the Queensland wet tropics. In 2016 we started this project with the goal of better understanding the ecological role of feral cats in the wet tropics region of Queensland, Australia. We are using camera traps to determine the abundance and ecological impact feral cats have on different ecosystems in the region. We are also interested in possible dingo-cat interactions and the trophic implications of these placental carnivores. This project will use GPS collars to better understand feral cat habitat selection and predator behavior.
Comparative Movement Ecology. In 2015, we started work on a NSF funded study to study the movement ecology of five sympatric neotropical mammals (with Margaret Crofoot, Roland Kays, and Damien Caillaud). Many ecological models of animal movement are based on random search strategies, but frugivores often use prior knowledge of fruit tree locations. These travel patterns often resemble the “traplining” behavior of nectivores. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine how animals make travel decisions between known food patches because it is typically impossible to map all potential food resources. We are taking advantage of the sharply seasonal fruiting patterns in Panama to study the movement ecology of five frugivorous mammal species when only one species of tree produces ripe fruit (Dipteryx panamensis). Using aerial photos, we have constructed a complete map of fruiting trees available to mammals during Dec-Feb. We have placed GPS collars on four species of mammals (coatis, capuchins, kinkajous, spider monkeys) and documented their travel patterns and fruit tree visitations. This project has used cutting edge methods such as: a) construction of resource maps through drone based remote sensing, b) near-infrared reflectance spectrometry to determine fruit nutrient content, and c) measuring activity/behavior through accelerometer sensors. We are currently determine how and why species level differences in cognition and other factors (locomotor costs, sociality, etc..) influence movement behavior by comparing observed patterns to individual based computer models.
Food for Thought animal animation: