Current Research

Videos

Several of our publications reference supplementary videos currated on our Youtube Channel.

Collaborative Research

Much of my current research involves collaborating with my graduate students on their current research projects.  Please see Lab Members page for descriptions of these projects.

Predator-Prey Interactions

Much of my current reserach revolves around the foraging behavior of rattlesnakes, with an emphasis on predator-prey interactions between rattlesnakes and small mammals. We are currently focusing on interactions between California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) and Northern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus), as well as interactions between desert kangaroo rats (Dipodomys deserti) and Mojave (Crotalus scutulatus) and sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes) rattlesnakes. Much of our effort in this area builds upon the research careers of two other groups that produced an amazing body of work in this area:  (1) The ground squirrel/rattlesnake work of Richard Coss and Don Owings from UC Davis, and (2) the kangaroo rat/snake work of Jan Randall from San Francisco State University.

Conservation Genetics

I am also involved in several projects using population genetics to understand connectivity and population structure in the context of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation.  One of the goals of this work is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the effect of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation on the genetic structure of a local native vertebrate community here in southern California.  We will first select representative species from the local community and examine different aspects of their behavior relating to movements, dispersal, and habitat use.  We will then use genetic tools to examine population structure and connectivity in relation to natural landscape features and anthropogenic barriers.  This work will give us a better understanding of how different species living in the same ecosystem are impacted by local anthropogenic barriers such as roads and development.  By understanding details of how behavioral differences between species lead to differences in population responses to the same set of anthropogenic pressures, we hope to optimize management and mitigation efforts designed to protect local biodiversity.

Quantitative Natural History

Some projects my lab works on fall into the general category of “quantitative natural history”. I am thrilled by the discovery of new details of the natural lives of animals, and find deep satisfaction in documenting these details in quantitative ways, speculating how certain behaviors or adaptations may have evolved, and publishing these details for the larger community of ecologists and evolutionary biologists to build upon. I think that it is imperative that scientists occasionally explore unknown details of our universe in a haphazard fashion, following their own natural curiousity, with no particular practical or conceptual goals other than documenting the unknown.  Such research often provides the raw materials that can be refined into broader conceptual understanding, genearl theories, or practical applications.  Without these types of unfettered academic pursuits, our collective expansion of knowledge would slowly grind to a halt.

Last Updated:  August 2017