My major area of interest is animal behavior and cognition. I am studying the ecological and evolutionary implications of consistent individual variations in behavior, called behavioral syndromes or personalities. Additionally, I am interested in questions related to problem solving and cognitive abilities in animals. I find the intersection between cognition and personality to be fascinating, and I hope to work on projects like this in the future. My current projects include:
Behavioral Syndromes in the Caribbean Hermit Crab (Coenobita clypeatus)
This project was an undergraduate independent study and the manuscript is (still) in preparation. I studied hermit crabs to see if they exhibited consistent individual variation in behavior across time and situations; essentially, animal personality. I had hoped to perform cognitive tests as well, but there are very few studies published with these kinds of tests for invertebrates and I was unable to food motivate the crabs. This project is where my interest in animal personality and cognition began.
Behavior and Diet of Peromyscus Mice Along a Range Expansion Gradient
The first two months of my masters program were spent at a field station, where I worked on this project. Due to climate change, the ranges of Peromyscus mice are rapidly changing. I used stable isotope analysis on hair samples from mice trapped in different locations across Michigan. Additionally I did isotope analysis on insects and plants they commonly feed on, and by mapping the two together you can determine the diet of the mice. This data was then coupled with behavioral assays to look for differences in behavior and feeding niches at the edge of the range expansion. I will be presenting this research at the 2019 SICB meeting.
Effects of Urbanization on Behavior and Cognition of Fox Squirrels
This study is the one I am most excited about, an that will hopefully become my masters thesis. The ideas are not yet fully developed and planned out, but my goal is to study behavior and cognitive abilities in populations of fox squirrels that live in environments with varying degrees of urbanization and human impact.