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I am a behavioral ecologist interested in how animal behavior drives processes at higher scales, from groups to populations, communities and ecosystems. I focus specifically on anti-predator and collective behavior, using African savannah ungulates as my primary study system.

tommies
Thomson’s gazelle

In 2016, I started as a postdoc with Iain Couzin in the Department of Collective Behavior at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (formerly the MPI for Ornithology) in Konstanz, Germany. Here I am leading the Herd Hover project, a collaborative effort to develop drone- and image-based methods for observing wild animals in their natural habitat without the use of GPS collars or on-animal devices. I am applying these methods to understand the drivers of individual vigilance behavior in savannah ungulate herds, and how individual behavior affects collective threat detection. You can learn more about this project on my Research page or at the Herd Hover website.

drone flight

I earned my Ph.D. from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, where I was a member of the Rubenstein lab. For my dissertation, I studied the maternal and antipredator behavior of Thomson’s gazelles. I was interested in the behavioral patterns exhibited by mothers with dependent fawns, how these change as fawns develop, and the potential impacts of maternal behavior on fawn survival and maternal fitness. To collect the observational data for this study, I spent more than 15 months at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, during which time I developed a deep interest in the natural history of African savannah wildlife. After defending my dissertation in 2014, I remained at Princeton for two years, during which I worked as a lecturer for undergraduate courses and provided research support for on-going projects in the Rubenstein Lab, including a collaboration with WildMe to develop automated individual-recognition for zebras.

Before starting at Princeton, I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, where I majored in Anthropology and minored in Spanish. I took full advantage of the breadth of focus in Wash U’s Anthropology department, taking courses in human evolution, primatology, cultural anthropology and archaeology. I wrote my senior thesis on the potential origins and purpose of a submerged sea wall structure that I visited in Greece during a summer course on marine archaeology. In my junior year I took a course with Prof. Fiona Marshall on the archaeology of animal domestication, which entailed conducting behavioral research on the Grevy’s zebras and African wild asses at the Saint Louis Zoo, with the goal of understanding why some equids were domesticated while others were not. This course, along with my primatology courses, started me on the path to a career in animal behavior. I worked as a Research Intern at the Zoo under Dr. Cheryl Asa over the summer and for 8 months prior to starting at Princeton. I also worked as a Summer Research Intern at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, where I conducted a project on the space use of African ungulates in a mixed-species enclosure under the supervision of Dr. Fred Bercovitch.

I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where I attended Louisville Collegiate School.