I have been interested in animal behavior as long as I can remember, but during college I got my first exposure to bioacoustics. For my undergraduate degree, I attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, earning a B.A. in Biology in 1992. During that time I took a variety of courses, but my favorite courses focused on animal behavior and communication. I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Sylvia Halkin (now at Central Connecticut State University) studying singing behavior in male Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). We were trying to determine if a male with a larger repertoire might be more successful at maintaining a territory or attracting a mate.
When I got to Ohio State in 1994, I joined Dr. Mitch Masters in the OSU Batlab in the department of Zoology (now called the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology). I didn't know much about bats at the time, but I wanted to try and study sound in something besides birds because so many people seemed to study them. I also liked the combination of physics, computer science, and biology that characterized a lot of the research. Studying sounds above the range of human hearing introduces a number of interesting problems and technological solutions. During my time in the lab I studied echolocation in Eptesicus fuscus, the big brown bat (which really isn't all that big). Echolocation is a system of biological sonar, where a bat emits a loud sound that travels through the environment until it hits an object (e.g., a prey item like an insect or obstacle like a tree). The sound is reflected back towards the bat as echoes. Because the speed of sound is relatively constant, the time between the production of the sound and the arrival of the echo tells the bat how far away the echo source is. It's also likely that the echo will sound "different" because the sound is changed when it is reflected, so bats can also get some information about the physical structure of the echo source from the way the echo sounds when it arrives.
I have continued to try and address these issues throughout my research projects. The questions I've been able to address include both laboratory and field research, so there is a wide variety questions that can be addressed.
I have also worked with other organisms, usually studying sounds, but any aspect of behavior is interesting and worth studying. Click on the links below for more information on specific research questions I have addressed.