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I am a sensory biologist and acoustician interested in the information content of acoustic signals, and how animals perceive sound. I am also interested in the algorithms used by animals to locate a sound producing object solely via hearing. For my PhD dissertation, I am using the acoustically communicating intertidal nesting toadfish, the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus) as a model to address these broad questions. After spending the winter offshore in deep waters (>100 m), midshipman migrate to rocky intertidal beaches during the summer (May-September) for breeding. Type I or “singing” males nest underneath rocks from which they produce nocturnal, long duration advertisement calls (“hums”) to attract females. These hums are the longest contiguous vocalizations in the animal kingdom! Females localize the nests of humming males in near complete darkness and return to deeper water after spawning. Type I males engage in parental care till the eggs hatch and the fry leave the nest. Type II or sneaker males do not produce hums but rather sneak into the nests of type I males and fertilize a fraction of the eggs. Thus, the midshipman is a great model to answer the following questions:
1) What information do type I males convey to females via their mating hums?
2) How do females perceive the hums?
3) How do females hone in on the location of the humming males?
Before heading to the University of Washington to pursue my PhD, I did my master's project in the lab of Dr. Sanjay Sane, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, India, where I characterized the landing maneuvers of houseflies (Musca domestica) on vertical and inverted surfaces. As an undergraduate student, I have also undertaken research projects in the areas of community ecology, phylogenetics, and comparative anatomy.