Animal colour allows us access to a complex series of trade-offs between different selection pressures, that can link environmental characteristics, population ecology, behaviour and cognition, physiology, reproduction and sociality, and trophic interactions between communities of predators and their prey.
I am particularly interested in using animal colour to understand how behaviour and morphology evolve to fulfil multiple functions simultaneously. For example, through distance or context dependent signals, behavioural modification of signal design, or multicomponent colour patterns.
My research predominantly focuses on understanding widely applicable behavioural and ecological processes. However, I find poison frogs to be particularly valuable case studies where colour has repeatedly diversified for defence, territoriality, and reproduction.
Predators & Prey
The behavioural decisions of both predator and prey have enormous consequences for survival and reproductive success. The 'optimal' solutions of many predator-prey interactions have received a lot of attention, but individual choices must be made quickly often in situations where information may be incomplete or inconsistent.
My research aims to understand how decisions are made when information is scarce and stimuli are ambiguous. Such ambiguity may arise due to sensory or cognitive constraints, or due to distraction and additional stressors. I am interested in understanding how information is applied across spatial and temporal contexts to inform prey choice, escape behaviour, and habitat use.
I am particularly interested in species with unusual or unique sensory experiences, high risk behaviours, and species that use multiple environments.
The preservation and restoration of natural landscapes is one of the most pressing initiatives of the 21st Century. However, reconstituting natural behavioural and ecological processes is a delicate balance. I believe that to ensure our best chance of success in protecting biodiversity, from the level of individuals to ecosystems, we must understand how behaviour is affected by changes to both the abiotic and biotic context.
Visual ecology and predator-prey dynamics allow us to investigate how ephemeral and dynamic processes are affected by ecosystem change. For example, when physical environments change, disturbance and stress increase, or when species assemblages change due to extinction, invasion, or reintroduction programmes. This then allows us to understand both where resiliency lies within biological networks and where seemingly small changes may have cascading effects on ecosystem function and the viability of populations.