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Nest design, construction, and spatial organization in the superorganism

An organism’s appearance is the result of evolutionary pressures, and those same pressures apply to the structures organisms build, such as nests. Superorganism nests function as extended phenotypes to perform key biological processes, to survive, grow, and reproduce. Social insects are masters of solving organizational problems because they must coordinate thousands of individuals to accomplish these goals. One such problem is how to construct nests, and then, how to organize resources within that nest. Both, presumably, are optimized to maximize colony performance.

Stable Isotope Analyses in Neotropical Mammals: Paleoecological Implications

Stable isotope analyses are powerful tools for reconstructing ancient ecologies and ecosystems, as they provide direct insights into dietary ecology independent of morphology. The application of stable isotope analyses, however, is not without limitations, as determination of food web dynamics using these methods often relies on poorly tested assumptions. In this presentation, I will address challenges in paleoecological reconstructions of South American tropical ecosystems.

Organismal Dynamics, Fluids and Sparks: Stories of Marvelous Beasts

Most incredible animal adaptations, such as flight or filter-feeding, have been shaped by natural selection in which the fluid environment has played a fundamental role. Similarly, at submillimeter scales, some tiny organisms use other phenomena, such as electrostatics, to their biological advantage. In this seminar, I am going to focus on four stories of my recent research that show how fluids, as well as electrostatic forces outline the animal world.

Adventures in cell herding: understanding and controlling collective cell migration

We are working to accomplish for cells something like what a shepherd and sheepdogs bring to flocks of sheep: control over large-scale collective cellular motion. As coordinated cellular motion is foundational to many forms of multicellular life, being able to ‘herd’ or program large-scale cell migration raises exciting possibilities for accelerated healing, tissue engineering, and novel biomaterials.

Moving and Grooving: Exploring Behavioral Multitasking in Drosophila Courtship

Success in life, for humans and all animals, requires multitasking. Multitasking — the simultaneous execution of two or more behaviors by a single agent — may at times seem effortless and safe, such as walking and talking, or challenging and potentially fatal, such as driving and texting. Performance differences between different multitasking contexts are likely reflected in the cognitive demands of the constituent behaviors, yet the neural substrates that facilitate or constrain multitasking remain unknown.

Fear Across Scales: The individual, collective, and community dynamics of antipredator behavior

Animal behavior is a key determinant of individual fitness, but also drives patterns and processes at broader ecological scales. By studying the drivers and diversity of individual behavioral strategies, we can develop a mechanistic understanding of emergent collective behavior, population dynamics, community structure, and landscape-level ecological processes. In my work, I use the antipredator behavior of African ungulates as a lens to explore the cross-scale ecological impacts of behavior.


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