Get to Know a Scientist

Maria J Albo, PhD. Laboratory of Ethology, Ecology and Evolution, Clemente Estable Biological Research Institute, Uruguay and Department of Biological Sciences, Ecology and Genetics, Aarhus University, Denmark

When asked her title and affiliation, Maria has this to say:
I am doing my Ph.D. thesis in Uruguay but also working in collaboration with researchers at Aarhus University, Denmark.

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I always like to be in the field and in contact with animals, so as much as I can I travel outside the city and enjoy nature.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I do a lot of research, reading, writing, some teaching and participate in conferences related to animal behavior, behavioral ecology and spiders. Basically, we study the origin and evolution of nuptial gifts in some spider species; comparing how this trait evolves in two different families. We do field work to understand how animals behave and then we perform experiments in the lab to verify the hypotheses.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I love what I do in general! I like to discuss and create new ideas with other scientists; as well as to verify them with different experiments. But the most amazing thing is to go to the field and try to understand how things happen in nature.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Well, I have been always fascinated by all kind of art expressions and I like to draw and create things with my hands. I guess science is very close to art in some points.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I like the ocean and I would like to be a dolphin, swimming and enjoying water.

Find more about Maria J. Albo's research here and here and read more about her science at Sex, Lies and Spider Silk.



Bob Beason, PhD. Semi-retired, working parttime as a consultant for Accipiter Radar Corporation. Previous positions: State Univ. of New York at Geneseo, and Univ. of Louisiana at Monroe.


1. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
Mostly in Kansas and New Mexico. I know live in Huron, Ohio, near Lake Erie.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
My research interests include avian sensory perception (magnetic and vision), and migration, orientation, and navigation.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Learning about nature and sharing the knowledge with others.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Spend time outdoors: camping, birding, riding motorcycles.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Other than human? A bird because they have a broader sensory view of the world and can fly.

Find more about Bob Beason's research at Magnetoreception is Not a Party For a Supervillain.



Grant Brown, Professor of Biology, Concordia University


1. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Southern Alberta and currently live in Ste. Catherine, Quebec (on the lovely South Shore of Montreal).

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I am a behavioural and chemical ecologist, focussing primarily on aquatic systems. My research generally looks at the question of 'how aquatic prey detect, assess and respond to local predation threats'. We combine laboratory and field experiments in an attempt to understand how prey and predators use chemical information and what the long-term consequences of human impacts on aquatic ecosystems (I.e., acid rain, turbidity, habitat degradation) might be.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
The short answer is that someone pays me to go play with fish in natural streams! The slightly longer answer is that science allows me to understand how things work. The sense of wonder when we figure something out is still as intense now as it was when I began. As an academic scientist, I get to engage in this discovery every day and interact with colleagues and students who share this sense of wonderment.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I'm a bad guitar player and a worse hockey player, though I enjoy these distractions. When not in the lab or away in the field, I like to spend time with my family, hopefully teaching my kids that science is cool.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Probably a guppy (from a low predation pressure population). I do field work in Trinidad and swimming around these low risk streams seems pretty idyllic. If not a guppy, maybe a postdoctoral fellow (Homo sapiens postdocensis). All that time to do research with no administrative responsibilities.

Find more about Grant Brown and his lab here and here. And learn more about his research at The Smell of Fear.



Kristal Cain, Postdoctoral Fellow, Evolution Ecology and Genetics, Australian National University
1. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I grew up in rural East Texas, the swampy side of the state. Currently living in Canberra, Australia.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
Think, read, write, play with spreadsheets then think, read, and write some more. But the best part is spending long chunks of time in the field following animals around and watching them do their thing.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
That it's my job to question things, to wonder about the natural world. I also really enjoy talking and working with other scientist. It's great to be surrounded my smart, insightful people with exciting ideas and new perspectives.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I've been playing ultimate frisbee for a long time. I love to garden and cook. When I have time I like to read and travel.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
An otter, because they seem to be thoroughly enjoy themselves no matter what. I also love that some species move freely between land and water, getting the best of both worlds. They are also intelligent, social and rarely attacked by larger predators.

Find more about Kristal Cain here and her research at Competitive Females.



Michael Caldwell, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Minnesota and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution

Michael recording frog vibrations.

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Berkeley, California... mostly, with time some time in Panama and various Pacific islands.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I research animal communication. My focus is on vibrational communication in frogs. I study the interactions of frogs in the field, form questions about how they communicate from those observations, and test these ideas with experiments either in nature or in the laboratory. Many of my experiments involve playing frogs sounds or vibrations that vary in interesting ways and seeing how they respond.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I'm a curious person. Satisfying that curiosity and sharing it with others is part of my job! What's not to like?

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
It ties in with my work, but I love spending time in wilderness areas, especially in the tropics.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
This is probably a cheap answer, but I'd be human. There is so much to experience and learn. I wouldn't want to go through life without being conscious of that. If human isn't an acceptable answer, I'd be an abalone.

Find more about Michael Caldwell's science at Red-Eyed Rump Shaker.



Daniel Cattaert, Research Director (CNRS) in Bordeaux University, INCIA Lab


1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Nantes (France) and now live in Bordeaux (France).

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I am interested in the analysis of how neural networks organize locomotion. A large part of my scientific contributions concern sensory-motor interactions in the "simple" neural network of crayfish. This research associates intracellular recordings from the various types of neurons (sensory neurons, motoneurons and interneurons) of the locomotor network with other approaches (neuroanatomy, pharmacology, simulations and behavior). Some years ago, I met Pr. Edwards who was interested in neural control of behavior, and who handled a very powerful simulation tool (AnimatLab) developed in his team by David Cofer. Based on our common interests we decided to join our efforts do decipher neural mechanisms of movement control. In my team we are also interested in the normal and pathological (ALS) development of the spinal networks in mice.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Creativity and fun to find out how the mechanisms of behavior at the level of neurons and neural circuits.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I play music, read fictions, enjoy my family, and I am involved in the activities of my church.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
No I would not.

Find more about Daniel Cattaert's research and lab here and read more about his science at Does Social Status Change Brains?.



Olivier Delattre, Recently Graduated Graduate Student in the Laboratoire D’éthologie Expérimentale et Comparée (LEEC) of Paris 13

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up near Paris, and this is where I live, at least for the time being.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I mainly focused on the evolution of recognition mechanisms of social insects in the particular case of host-parasite coevolutive interactions. I worked with slave-making ants and their host species. I was also teaching in university during my PhD.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
First of all, just having the emotional pleasure to enjoy the diversity and complexity of life, as a biologist. Learning things and teaching them is another fantastic point.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Walking, trekking, obviously in wild areas. I also have a creative imagination and I am thus very close from different imaginary “cultures”.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I would be an orca, because they are social and because of their fascinating cognitive abilities. They also are good candidates to study “culture” in non-human animals. I also am deeply fascinated by oceans, because of their biodiversity, their importance for this planet and because they are still shrouded in mystery, even for scientists.

Find more about Olivier Delattre's science at Mind-Manipulating Slave-Making Ants!.



Don Edwards, Regents’ Professor of Neuroscience at Georgia State University

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Arlington, Virginia and now live in Decatur, Georgia, outside of Atlanta.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
My current focus is on understanding the role of sensory feedback in motor control. A few years ago, a student, David Cofer, built AnimatLab, a computer program that enables the user to reconstruct the body (skeleton, muscles, body surface) and nervous system of an animal in a computational model that is situated in a virtual physical world. This program makes it possible to test our understanding of the neural control of behavior in a dynamic context where sensorimotor feedback loops are closed. We have used AnimatLab to help understand the neural control of locust jumping (J Exp Biol 213:1060-1068 and 3378-3387, 2010) and more recently crayfish walking. Much is known about the circuits that control a variety of behaviors in these and other animals; AnimatLab makes it possible to put circuit information about one animal together to test whether it is sufficient to account for the animal’s behavior. When that information falls short (which is most of the time), the simulation still provides insights that guide the next round of experiments. This sort of dialog between analytical experimentation and synthetic modeling seems to me the only way forward to understand the dynamic interaction of the nervous system, the body and the world.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Using 50 years of experimental results and insights to reconstruct neural circuits that control discrete aspects of crayfish behavior.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I read history, scientific biographies, and fiction, and I garden, and enjoy my family. Apart from grading, I also like to teach, and I like to interact with my colleagues.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I would not be any other animal; their lives tend to be either very restricted or nasty, brutal, and short, or both.

Find more about Don Edwards' research and lab here and read more about his science at Does Social Status Change Brains?.



Brock Fenton, Emeritus Professor of Biology, Western University

Picture Taken by Beth Clare.
1. Where did you grow up?
Toronto, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Toronto

2. What do you do as a scientist?
My job has two main parts, research and teaching. My research is mainly focused on bats ... echolocation, behaviour, conservation, evolution, the list goes on. I currently teach two on line courses for undergrads ... bat biology and vertebrate biology.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Meeting neat animals, most of them bats.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Read, take pictures, cycle.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Sea slug ... they are very neat.

Find more about Brock Fenton's science at Don't Challenge a Fruit-Eating Bat to a Drinking Contest.



Hans Hofmann, Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin

The photo shows me watching some of the
fish we have been working on.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small village in southeastern Bavaria, near the Danube River.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I am interested in understanding how genes and brains interact to produce social behavior, and how the social environment in which we live affects the activity of both our brain and genes. Since we cannot do experiments in humans we use African cichlid fishes as a model system. Cichlids show complex yet tractable social behavior, are easy to breed and maintain in the laboratory, and have a pretty short generation time. More recently, the genomes of five cichlid species have been sequenced and many other genomic and molecular tools have been developed for this group.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Meeting and working with smart and interesting people.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Meeting interesting people while traveling.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I probably would want to be an octopus and be able to take on any shapes and colors of my surroundings.

Find more about Hans Hofman at http://cichlid.biosci.utexas.edu/ and read about his work at The Same Clay and Decisions, Decisions.



Erich Hoyt, Senior Research Fellow with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

When asked his title and affiliation, Erich has this to say:
I am Senior Research Fellow, with WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and I lead its Global Critical Habitat/ Marine Protected Areas Programme. For the past decade I have also co-directed, with Alexander Burdin, the Far East Russia Orca Project and (since 2009) the Russian Cetacean Habitat Project, working with Russian graduate students in Kamchatka and Commander Islands. I am also Director of Marine Mammals with the educational resource marinebio.org. I serve as an invited expert in the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Cetacean Specialist Group, as well as in the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and IUCN High Seas MPA Task Force.

I was 20 minutes off a very long flight from Scotland
to Suriname when my host handed me this sloth that
she was rehabilitating to return to the wild. I learned
that sloths (a) have extraordinarily strong arms and
(b) give good hugs without even asking.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan and Toronto, Ontario and am a dual Canadian-American citizen. I have live the past 20 years in North Berwick, Scotland, on the sea outside Edinburgh.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
Mostly writing and editing, a bit of field work, admin and fund-raising to try to get work and collaborations going to solve various scientific issues related to my conservation interests (to be able to throw good science at conservation problems)

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Freedom to design my days and follow my interests wherever they might lead and to keep learning at the edge of what we know...

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Gardening, writing books (children's, anthologies, narrative nonfiction and currently working on a novel), running on the beach, family excursions such as a recent trip with 21 yr old son to Tokyo to help set up a life-size whale photo exhibition and symposium (New Tales about Whales in Science, Society & Art).

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Giant tortoise on the Galápagos, slow moving but taking the long view. The 200-year-old bowhead whales (according to recent research) are appealing; there's wisdom and phenomenal good luck to have avoided so many decades of harpoons.

Find more about Erich Hoyt, WDCS, Russian orcas, and cetacean habitat and read more about his science at Y'all tawk funny, doncha know.



Ludwig Huber, Messerli Professor and Head of Comparative Cognition, Messerli Research Institute

This photo shows me in the (old) office with two
red-footed tortoise. Together with my colleague
Anna Wilkinson I have shown that this solitary
species is able to learn by observing conspecifics
(social learning in a non-social species). However,
they don't show contagious yawning, which resulted
in being awarded with the IG-Nobel prize in 2011.
1. Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Lower Austria (Ternitz) and am living there now as well. It is about 60 km south of Vienna, close to the most-eastern high mountains of the alps (both > 2000 m).

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I am a cognitive biologist, focusing on the cognitive abilities of animals. My research has been devoted to three cognitive domains, the perceptual, the social and the technical. Importantly, I was always interested in the evolutionary aspects of cognition (how these abilities came about, how comparable are they in other species including us humans, what are their functions in the natural behavior, what mechanisms are causing them? etc), and therefore tried to compare different species, from fish (archer fish, goldfish), amphibia (tadpoles), reptiles (red-footed tortoise, jewelled lizards) to birds (pigeon, kea) and mammals (dogs, marmosets, capuchin monkeys, humans).

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Being innovative and creative. And critical. Often science makes significant progress by removing the dust left over from others.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Being in the mountains. With my mountain bike or skiing or simply walking and climbing.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Perhaps a kea, the mountain parrot from New Zealand. This bird lives in the mountains (the Alps of New Zealand), is bold, inquisitive, curious, manipulative, social, innovative and intelligent.

Find more about Lugwig Huber and read more about his science at Not Fair! Even Dogs Know the Importance of Gift-Equity.



Fadi Issa, Research Fellow at the Brain Research Institute at the University of California – Los Angeles


1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Atlanta, GA. I currently live in Los Angeles, CA.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
My research is based on two research interests. First, I study the neural basis of escape circuits in zebrafish. The questions I try to answer are how neural circuits are organized to produce adaptive behavior, and how flexible are these circuits to changing environmental and social condition? My second research interest is more medically oriented in that I'm trying to utilize our knowledge of the neural circuits that mediate the swimming behavior in zebrafish to determine how specific genetic mutations that lead to Spinocerebellar ataxia type 13, which is a neurodegenerative disease that affects rhythmic behavior, can affect the zebrafish swimming ability.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
The freedom to pursue my passion.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I enjoy kayaking and hiking the coast of southern California.

Find more about Fadi Issa's research here and read more about his science at Does Social Status Change Brains?



Aubrey Kelly, Graduate Student at Indiana University

Kenya 2007
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in San Diego and moved to Bloomington, IN for grad school. Although it was quite a change, I like the small college town atmosphere and it’s great to actually experience seasons… not that 70 degrees and sunny nearly everyday is a bad thing!

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I study the neural mechanisms underlying social and anxiety-like behaviors in finches.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Like most scientists, I particularly enjoy the rush you get after analyzing data and getting good results. It’s just very neat to see something concrete come out of all the work you do.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I love traveling, photography, yoga, cooking and baking, exploring the great outdoors, and seeing movies!

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I would either want to be a dolphin (because I love swimming) or a bird (because flying would be amazing).

Find more about Aubrey Kelly here and read more about her science at Social butterflies or wallflowers?.



Cindi Kelm-Nelson, Graduate Student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison


1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up outside of Milwaukee in the suburb Hales Corners. After coming to Madison for college and living there for 11 years, my husband and I just recently moved to Cottage Grove (right outside Madison).

2. What do you do as a scientist?
My broad research interests are how the brain controls behavior. And, my dissertation has focused on the role of opioids in social vocal communication.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
My favorite part of being a scientist is getting to discover something new and being able to put my name on that work.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I like to train/do Ironman triathlons and marathon running, and of course playing with my black lab Gunner.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Armadillo. They are awesome.

Find more about Cindi's science at It Feels Good to Sing a Song (In Fall).



Will Kenkel, Post-Doctoral Researcher, RTI International at Northeastern University
 

1. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I grew up in sunny Ithaca, NY. I now live in Boston, MA.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I try to use the prairie vole to understand oxytocin, why it’s released, what it does, what affects it and for how long. I’m especially interested in oxytocin during development.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
The fact that it’s hands-on work, moving around gets the exercise-related hormones (like oxytocin!) going, conferring all sorts of health benefits.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I’ve been part of a group called The Nerdologues that celebrates geeky interests and build community through the comedy of honesty.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Tough call, it used to be Otter but lately, I’ve been thinking Bat not just for the flight but also the sensory upgrades over humans (smell, echolocation), maybe a Dolphin since they have the playfulness and the echolocation.

Find more about Will Kenkel's comedy group here and his research at Mr. Nanny Makes Mr. Right.



Tracy Langkilde, Assistant Professor, Pennsylvania State University

Working at the Manitoba garter snake dens was the
most incredible scientific experience. So many snakes.
They're only interested in sex and so virtually ignore
researchers, allowing us to study their behavior.
1. Where did you grow up?
I was born in South Africa and moved to Australia when I was 9. I now live in the USA, in Pennsylvania.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I study how individuals interact with one another and their environment. Much of this research takes place in the field, so I spend time examining the behavior and physiology of animals in their natural environment. I also get to do lab work, so it's a nice mix. I have a wonderful research team that carries out much of this research, so I also spend my time applying for funding to do this research, writing papers, and traveling around giving talks.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I love the variety in my work, getting to travel to places most people dream of going - and getting paid for it - and being my own boss. The ability to follow my passion, communicate this to others, and explore questions that I find most exciting, is very rewarding.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I have a 2 year old, so I spend much of my spare time exploring the world with him. He loves animals. It's wonderful watching him discover new things - everything's an adventure at that age.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Difficult question - they all have their plusses and minuses. I'm pretty happy being human and able to study other animals.

Find more about Tracy Langkilde's research and lab here and read more about her science at Snakes Deceive to Get a Little Snuggle.



Wayne Linklater, Director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology and Senior Lecturer in Ecology & Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington

Tracking rhino with field assistant Neto Pule. Photo by Edy MacDonald.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Canterbury, New Zealand. Currently I live in Wellington, New Zealand.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
All sorts of things. Somewhat eclectic at present since my contingency (what I have been paid to do in the past), current curiosity, and success at research funding take me in divergent directions. I am still involved in large mammal behaviour, ecology and management – whether of pest (feral horse) or endangered (rhino) status. I am curious about human-wildlife relationships in urban landscapes – which brings me to UC-Berkeley’s Geography Dept for the next 8 months to spend time with Dr. Nathan Sayer and his research group. I have had recent funding success for research to develop better chemical lures for New Zealand’s introduced mammalian pests. We have contracts with New Zealand’s Ministry of Science & Innovation and Department of Conservation.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I get to follow my interest, design my approach, work with a great diversity of people and perspectives.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Be a dad and husband – a full time job at present with 10 week and 4 year old daughters. Home DIY.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Human – absolutely human.

Find more about Wayne's research, horse and other ungulate blog (Perissodactyla), and political ecology blog (Politecol Science). Read more about his science at The Craptastic Conversations of the Black Rhinoceros.



Brooke Luciano, Owner at Light Healing Solutions, LLC and Director of Provider Services at Light M.D.

Me snorkeling/paddle boarding

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Austin, TX and spent a lot of time in the Bay Area, California. I currently reside in Las Vegas, Nevada.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I work with InfraRed and Red LED Light, also known as Photo-Dynamic Therapy or Low Level Light Therapy. This involves cell biology and research in biological processes. I study the relationship between humans/animals and how their cells react to light. I spend a lot of time researching different applications for light in both humans and animals as well as studying the cells and specifically the mitochondria.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist? I love all aspects of being a scientist! It involves a constant desire to seek out information and perform experiments. I love to learn and being a scientist has broadened my view of the capabilities of all living things. Plus, it makes it so much more interesting when exploring nature and all of its beauty!

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I love anything having to do with water, snorkeling, swimming, diving, etc. I also love playing tennis, basketball, and cycling. Travelling is one of my favorite things to do and I always enjoy good company with family and friends.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I would be a Giant Manta Ray. Nothing is more majestic and beautiful to me than manta rays, and the giant manta is even more amazing.

Find more about Light M.D. and read more about Brooke's science at With a Fish in Your Pooper, Things Are Never Super (A Guest Post).



Aaron Lukaszewski, Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Loyola Marymount University

Me displaying my leadership capabilities at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the suburbs near Berkeley, California. I currently live in Culver City with my wife Tanaya, and my Maltese named Penelope.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
Broadly, my research focuses on mapping the evolved psychological mechanisms which underpin human social behavior. To this end, I incorporate theory and methods from multiple disciplines -- social psychology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, behavior genetics, behavioral ecology, and behavioral endocrinology. Specific questions addressed by my research program include:

-Why do people differ in their personalities? Do individual differences reflect the organizing influences of specific genetic polymorphisms (as proposed by evolutionary genetic models) or universal mechanisms of facultative calibration (as proposed by developmental-adaptationist models)?

-Why do logically and psychometrically distinct psychological, emotional, and behavioral traits covary in consistent ways within individuals, rather than varying independently?

-Why do some people have an appetite for social status, while others are content with lower status? And why do people who achieve high status tend to have certain characteristics?

-Are there separate psychological systems that regulate behavior across functionally-distinct types of relationships? If so, what are the commonalities and differences in how these systems select, maintain, and dissolve friendships, mateships, social exchange partnerships, etc.?

-Is human social behavior regulated by neuorendocrine mechanisms that are homologous to those observed in other species? If so, how have these hormone systems been modified in humans?


3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I'm in it for the money.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
When I'm not doing or teaching science, I enjoy wine tasting, eating out, and following politics.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I would be a Red Jungle Fowl rooster, because it would be easy to determine who is higher and lower than myself in rank (they have facultative adaptations that cause their combs to grow and shrink in proportion to their position in the dominance hierarchy).

Find more about Aaron Lukaszewski and read more about his science at Friends Without Benefits.



Ashleigh Lyman, Research Technician at the Marine Pollution Studies Lab (MPSL) at Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) and Project Leader of the Introduced Invertebrate and Algae Species (ISS) Study with the Department of Fish & Game in California


1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Montana and attended school at Montana State University before transferring to the University of California - Santa Cruz to finish my Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Biology. After finishing my degree in 2003, I moved to Hawaii to work on an inter-island boat doing research and teaching marine science. I then moved back to the Monterey Bay to work with MLML in 2004 on the ISS project where I resided for the next seven years.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
As a scientist, I was in charge of many of the logistics of our Introduced Species Project (ISS) and worked closely with 2 other people throughout my seven years at Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML). I helped organize field surveys and collections at various locations statewide as well as assisted in collection and analysis of publishable data for legislative reports and maintenance of a statewide database. I also assisted in writing of publications for the California Department of Fish & Game in the form of reports and also trained and managed a work force of one to two employees for two years of the project. Lastly, I collaborated and coordinated with many taxonomists aiding in our research.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist? My favorite aspect of being a scientist is the collection and analysis of data and the research into occurrence of patterns with relation to many other environmental factors. Through observation as well as collection of objective data, we were able to look at many aspects of introduced species prevalence along coastal California as well as in the bays and harbors. I loved travelling to a number of places in the state of California and exploring new dive sites offshore in remote areas. The underwater life as well as in the tidepools were amazing along many areas of the rugged coast.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Apart from science, I enjoy a variety of activities including running, surfing, hiking, camping, swimming, skiing, and just about anything active and outdoors. I live currently with my boyfriend in North San Diego County where we surf and run daily.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
If I could be any animal, I would be an octopus so I could hide during the day, change color upon demand, and be smart!

Find more about the Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) and read more about Ashleigh's science at With a Fish in Your Pooper, Things Are Never Super (A Guest Post).



Jorgelina (Lina) Marino, Research Staff in the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Zoology Department, University of Oxford

Field surveys in Vilama, Argentina (4,500m)
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Argentina and I live in Oxford, UK.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
My favorite research field is Ecology. I explore ecological reasons for animals to be social and distributed the way they are -from biogeographic patterns to territories. I like population ecology because it can reveal the links between these behaviors and fitness gains. I am interested in small populations of conservation concern. My main research focus is on Ethiopian wolves.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
To understand the adaptive value of animals’ strategies and to use this knowledge to conserve endangered species - But equally, to travel and to spend time in wild places!

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I like ballet, cooking, trekking, diving, and being a mum!

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
A dolphin – because they are beautiful and clever, and I love the sea.

Find more about Lina Marino's research here and read more about her science at Cooperating for Selfish Reasons.



Cathy Marler, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Photo from the University of Wisconsin - Madison

1. Where did you grow up?
I was born in California and raised in New York. My dad is an animal behaviorist, Peter Marler. I spent many hours in Staatsburg, New York exposed to many different animals and love to watch their behavior and interact with them.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I study animal behavior and what mechanisms shape plasticity in behavior.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Watching the animals and trying to figure out why they behave as they do. I also love to explore data to find out what answers are hidden in those numbers.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I like reading, drawing, painting, yoga, and most especially raising my two girls.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I would like to be a cat because they are often full of playfulness and confidence.

Find more about Cathy Marler's science at Steroids Won’t Help If You’re a Loser.



Jennifer Mather, Professor at the University of Lethbridge, Canada

When asked her title and affiliation, Jennifer has this to say:
I'm a professor in the Psychology Department of the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta far from the sea. The only cephalopods around me are fossils--but they make a jewel, ammolite, from them.

This one is staged--with a plastic octopus in our freshwater
pool. But there's the dive mask, wet suit (it gets darn cold
even in 28 degree C water when you stay still) and plastic
underwater slate with dangling pencil.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Victoria, on the west coast of Canada. That's why my interest in sea animals, as a kid I used to drop rocks into sea anemones and collect shells. Now I'm in southern Alberta--dry, cold in winter and hot in summer, small university and nice small city.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
Lots of different things. I teach university classes. This semester I'm having fun with one called Human-Animal Interactions, we've been talking about whether pets are parasites, the students are doing a poster presentation on various ethical issues, and I have a section to discuss the philosophies behind eating or not eating meat. I do research, very little of my time is spent actually in contact with the animals. We do data analysis, write papers, go to research conferences (I'll be at one at the Seattle Aquarium about the giant Pacific octopus on March 17th), read other people's papers and review them, listen to scholarly talks. I'm the chair of the Animal Behavior Society's Education Committee, try to organize us to help people teach better. Next ABS conference we are having a workshop by previous recipients of our Distinguished Teacher award.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Field work, though for me that's ocean work. Besides the fun of going to tropical islands like Bermuda and Hawaii, I feel that studying the animal where it lives is very important to understanding its life. So I've become kind of fascinated with octopus hunting and prey choice. We can study that by sampling their garbage heaps, the shells they leave outside their homes.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Lots of things. I love to cook, have a small but productive vegetable garden (cherry tomatoes are my favourite) and flowers--irises here. Reading, all the time and everything I can get my hands on. I bird watch, I have about 780 species in my life list, an advantage of going around the world for my work. I try to get at least one new species at every ABS conference, got two at Snowbird, yellow-billed magpie at Davis, painted bunting at Wilmington, easily 20 or so at Pirenopolis. When winter keeps me in I do jigsaw puzzles. And I walk the dog.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Well, a human. As I recently said at a presentation, while octopuses are smart, they aren't hanging around having seminars about us. We have a tremendous range and also a tremendous responsibility.

Find more about Jennifer Mather's research at Playing "Good Cop, Bad Cop" with octopuses.



Jérôme Micheletta, PhD Student at the University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom, Department of Psychology, Centre for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology

Jérôme Micheletta with the Macaca Nigra Project in Indonesia
1. Where did you grow up?
I was born in France and grew up in a few different places: North-East France, La Reunion, New Caledonia then back to France.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
As a scientist I am particularly interested in the behaviour and cognition of macaques. I carry out observation and experiments with them in the wild and in captivity.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
The best part of the job is the data collection, especially in the field. Being in the forest surrounded by dozens of monkeys is fascinating.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Music, photography, football (Or “soccer” for those of us in the United States)

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
A monkey I guess...to study human behaviour.

Find more about Jérôme Micheletta and his research at Friends With Beneifits.



Abby Nickels, LiMPETS Coordinator at the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association

Getting acquainted the sea lions at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport Oregon
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in San Jose, CA and now live in San Francisco CA.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I work with students (grade 6th - college) and community groups to collect scientific data on the Pacific mole crab and 33 rocky intertidal alage and invertebrate species.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Getting students excited about the ocean and all the awesome critters that live in it!

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I really enjoy hiking, camping and being outdoors as much as possible.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I should say some really cool ocean animal - but when you get down to it - I would like to be a cat. I love taking naps!

Find more about Abby Nickel's research at With a Fish in Your Pooper, Things Are Never Super.



Lauren O'Connell, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin

Collecting lizards in the Sonoran desert.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up on a farm in Mansfield, TX near Fort Worth.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I study how the brain makes decisions. Animals (including humans) are constantly receiving lots of external social information and the brain must integrate this information into a behavior appropriate to the situation. How the brain does this is still a mystery.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I like making discoveries that no one has observed before.It is amazing how complex and yet simple the forces that govern the biological world can be.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
When I'm not doing science, I enjoy being a mom. Other than that, I do glass-blowing and pottery for fun.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I would be a Exocoetidae or flying fish, as I can be part of the sea as well as the sky above.

Find more about Lauren O'Connell's research at The Same Clay and Decisions, Decisions.



Ljerka Ostojic, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Department of Psychology in Cambridge and the Sub-department of Animal Behaviour Madingley


1. What do you do as a scientist?
I conduct behavioural experiments with birds (mainly jays, a species of crow), domestic dogs (and their owners) but also with humans. I engage in discussions with other researchers, very often about ideas for experimental designs or statistical analyses. Together with my colleagues I also supervise students in various projects, teaching and assisting them in conducting experiments.

2. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
That in many ways I am a professional designer of bird feeders and dog toys! And that no day is like the other (which can be challenging at times but means that I am never bored). And that on days when everything seems to be going wrong, I can go and offer my birds a worm and they hop on my hand and immediately make me feel better.

3. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
A dog. Most of my life I have wondered what my dogs think and how I could talk to them so it would be good to finally get a glimpse of their internal life.

Find more about Ljerka Ostojic's research at Can Animals Sense Each Other’s Wants and Hopes?.



Trevor Rivers, PhD. Doherty Marine Biology Postdoctoral Scholar at Bowdoin College


1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in North Central Washington, but now live in Brunswick, Maine.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I’m most fascinated by vision and behavior in marine systems, in particular bioluminescence. It seems almost magical that animals are capable of producing their own light, and I am most interested in trying to figure out and describe why they have this amazing ability. I’ve worked primarily with ostracods in the Caribbean and scaleworms in the Gulf of Maine. I’m also interested in looking at how man-made light affects the behavior of marine animals.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Being a scientist means being able to explore. You are constantly asking new questions, devising new methodologies and technology, and I particularly like the field research.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I love scuba diving (which I also use for research) in both tropical and cold water. I’m also a black belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu, and like to train when I can. I also admit to playing the occasional video game.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
By default, I would have to be able to glow in the dark. Perhaps a vampire squid.

Find more about Trevor Rivers and his research at Baby, You Light Up My World Like Nobody Else.



Rafael (Rafa) Rodriguez, Assistant Professor in the Behavioral and Molecular Ecology Group and Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

I am in one of my old collecting sites in Missouri, directly
underneath two different host plant species of the treehoppers
and if you look there is a treehopper on each of them.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a suburb of San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, but with lots of critters in my backyard and nearby fields. I now live in a neighborhood of Milwaukee called Eastside, within walking distance of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee river, and work.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I study the evolution of complex animal behavior and how it influences the ways in which insects and spiders relate to their environment and to each other.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Three different, complementary things: I enjoy observing animals behave, which always brings surprising and weird discoveries. I also enjoy writing about these observations and what they have to say about evolutionary theory. Making observations and experiments requires tons of patience, which is extremely difficult for me, and I find that writing well comes hard to me, but both components of my job are lots of fun too. Finally, training new scientists and watching them take off --- that is truly fulfilling.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I read compulsively, lest I become bored, it's a vice, really --- preferably bookish science fiction but any topic is of interest, and especially everything and anything by Iain Banks, Christopher Hitchens, Terry Pratchett and Charles Stross. One of these days I will pick up my old hobbies and start weight lifting and training kyokushin karate again --- but I find that pre-tenure I mostly sit and think.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
A black jaguar --- it was my dad's "totem" animal.

Find more about Rafa Rodriguez at http://www.preferencefunctions.org/ and his research at Interrupting Insects



Alexandra (Alex) Rosati, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Psychology at Yale University

Going down the Kouilou River in the Republic of Congo
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Fresno, a town in central California. Currently I live in New Haven, Connecticut.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I study how different species of animals think. I am interested in why different animals might solve problems in different ways--that is, whether they have evolved different cognitive skills that allow them to behave in the most appropriate way for their particular social or ecological environment. I am especially curious about how humans think differently from (or similarly to) other primates, including lemurs, monkeys, and apes--like chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest living relatives.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
There is lots of fun stuff about being a scientist--I get to travel to other countries, read interesting books and papers, talk to lots of smart people, and watch animals do amazing things. But I most enjoy that being a scientist allows me to find out new things that no one knew before.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I like to travel, read, and drink coffee while wandering around new cities. At home, I like to draw and paint.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
If this was a permanent switch, I might just stick with being a human. But if I got to take a trial run, I would like to try out being an animal who's experience of the world is completely different from mine, like an echolocating bat.

Find more about Alex and her research at Risky Business: Ape Style.



Tom (Beeman) Seeley, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University

This is a photo of me watching a swarm of bees as it launches
into flight to move to its new home.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Ithaca, NY and I live now in Ithaca, NY. So, you can see, I did not disperse well. I did leave town for my undergraduate and graduate studies, and taught for 6 years at Yale, but like Odysseus, I wanted to get back to Ithaca and eventually I managed to find my way home. I love the combination of a big university in a small city, and especially a small city like Ithaca that is surrounded by wild and beautiful countryside.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
Two things mainly. I discover things about the natural world (aka do research) and I help pass on our knowledge of the natural world to the next generation of biologists (aka teach).

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Going to a field station, either by myself of with a small team of folks, and focusing my attention on solving a mystery about the social behavior of honey bees. I love the process of solving the mystery by first carefully observing the bees to get a clearer picture of what is going on and then conducting experiments to test the ideas that emerge from the observations. Doing research is a real roller coaster ride, with deep lows (things not working!) and soaring highs (ah hah! so that is what is happening!), so it is not for everyone. But for me the thrill that comes from discovering something that NOBODY has known before is a special thrill and a special source of pride.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I like to build things out of wood (such as barns, bridges, and boats) and I like to work in the 100-acre forest that I own, cutting firewood, making maple syrup, and getting to know all the plants and animals living in the various corners of this woodland.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Interesting question. Maybe a raccoon, because they are smart and like to work with their hands, but only if I could get protection from rabies.

Find more about Tom Seeley and his research at Can a Horde of Idiots be a Genius? and Why This Horde of Idiots is No Genius.



Rick Shine, Professor at the University of Sydney, Australia

1. Where did you grow up?
In Australia - my family moved around a fair bit while I was young, so I attended lots of different schools, and then a couple of different universities. I've been based in Sydney for more than 30 years now, but I travel quite a lot to visit places with lots of snakes - like the dens in Manitoba.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I am passionate about evolution, ecology and conservation – and especially with respect to my favourite animals, the reptiles and amphibians.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Being able to spend time with nature, to ask questions that nobody else thought of before, and (sometimes) to work out the answers to those questions.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Go fishing, read, and spend time with my family.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I reckon my pet dogs have got the most pampered life in the world, so I think that would be a great option. In my next life, I want to be a West Highland White Terrier in a good home!

Find more about Rick Shine and his research at Snakes Deceive to Get a Little Snuggle.



Chuck Snowdon, Hilldale Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Just me in my office with pictures of monkeys and apes on the wall behind me.

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and now live in Madison, WI.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
I study behavior of primates both human and nonhuman. For more than thirty years I maintained a colony of cotton-top tamarins, an endangered species, and my colleagues and I developed a wide array of non-invasive methods for studying behavior and hormones in these animals. We also did field work on cotton-top tamarins in Colombia, on pygmy marmosets in Peru and Ecuador, common marmosets in Brazil and other students of mine have studied patas monkeys, mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in Africa. Marmosets and tamarins are cooperative breeders with all family members and often unrelated animals working together to take care of infants. We have studied the behavioral and hormonal aspects of this novel type of parental care and also have studied vocal and chemical signals that animals use to coordinate behavior.

Now I am applying some of the ideas we developed from tamarins to human primates- How do we make mate choice decisions and what are the most important characteristics we look for in our mates. How do couples stay together and are there hormonal signs of good relationships versus poor relationships as we have seen in tamarins?


3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I like the idea of being creative, coming up with novel ideas that challenge traditional ways of thinking and finding ways to implement these ideas in research experiments and observational studies.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I teach and perform Scottish Country dance and enjoy music (hence my interest in collaborating with David Teie). I enjoy reading and traveling to interesting places where I can see wild primates.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I like being a human animal. As a species we have the intelligence to think through and solve problems and I enjoy the cultural products of our intelligence- books, films, music, opera and more. We have found ways to minimize predation and improved food resources for ourselves that other species have not solved as well.

Find more about Chuck Snowdon's research at Hey, Hey, We're The Monkeys!



Nina Veselka, Masters Graduate Student, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst)

This is a photo of me in Jamaica taken by my field
partner Yvonne Dzal. We were mist netting bats,
and recording video footage of them feeding in an
enclosure for my Masters work.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up all over the place... Mostly in Ontario, Canada. My parents are pretty nomadic so we moved around a lot (Windsor, Kingston, Hamilton, Burlington). I did my undergrad in London, Ontario and now I live in Northampton, Massachusetts.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
My Masters project focuses on the structure and function of bat thumbs, specifically how thumbs are used during feeding. I'm hoping to address some evolutionary questions with my research as well. Currently, I'm looking to see if there is a correlation between the evolution of thumb morphology and rates of diversification in phyllostomid bats.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I love field work! All aspects of it... From designing the experiments, to implementing them in the field (and even analyzing the data). It's both challenging and rewarding to do science in a natural setting.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
I do a lot of camping and hiking. I also love to rollerblade! I played roller derby for a while until I broke my ankle...

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Wow... I never actually thought about this... I think it would be cool to be a binturong (at least for a few days). Mainly because I don't know much about them and actually living the life of a binturong would be the best way to learn!

Find more about Nina Veselka's science at Don't Challenge a Fruit-Eating Bat to a Drinking Contest.



Joanne Webster, Professor of Parasitic Diseases at both the Royal Veterinary College, University of London and Imperial College London Faculty of Medicine

With my daughter!
1. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
Born in Canada, brought up mainly in the North of Scotland, but have lived in Oxford now for most of my life (since a student there).

2. What do you do as a scientist?
Lots of different things –I mainly focus on One Health examining diseases that affect both humans and animals. For the last 11 years at Imperial I have also be co-director of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) which has been providing sustainable treatment to millions of people in Africa against the neglected tropical diseases.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
Improving the health of humans and animals and uncovering fascinating facts about parasites.

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Ride my horses with my daughter.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
One of my own dogs – they are always eternally happy and either playing, eating or sleeping.

Find more about Joanne Webster's science at Real Zombie-Making Parasites Among Us.



Jeremy Wright, Curator of Ichthyology at the New York State Museum in Albany

Collecting juvenile largemouth bass for experiments in a southeast Michigan stream.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in northeast Iowa and southern Wisconsin. Right now I live in Troy, New York.

2. What do you do as a scientist?
My current research interests include the evolution of venomous fishes, the evolutionary relationships and taxonomic classification of North American and African catfishes, and the comparative evolution of rift lake species flocks. To address questions in these areas, I use a number of different methods, from traditional morphological examinations to identify and describe previously unrecognized species, to cutting edge genetic sequencing techniques that assist in the characterization of unknown venom-coding genes in fishes. As a museum curator, I am also responsible for the upkeep and expansion of the museum’s icthyological collections, as well as making information from these specimens and often, the specimens themselves available to scientists and the general public. This position also involves a fair amount of outreach activities, such as public lectures and leading professional development workshops for middle and high school science teachers.

3. What is your favorite aspect of being a scientist?
I’ve been fascinated by pretty much everything about fishes for as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine a better job than this one, which allows me to satisfy my own curiosity about the biology of these creatures, while also making contributions to the knowledge base of a wider community of similarly-minded scientists. The fact that this work has required going out into the field in a number of localities throughout the country to actually get the fish I want to study is a huge bonus!

4. Apart from science, what do you like to do?
Recreational fishing, reading history, watching movies, cooking, and homebrewing are some of the things that I like to do outside of work. I’ll also occasionally participate in 5 and 10K races and the odd half marathon.

5. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I’m pretty happy as a human and am not very keen on giving up the cognitive abilities that come with that. But, if I had to choose at the moment, I guess maybe an Aldabran giant tortoise. A long, slow moving, relatively unbothered life in a tropical environment sounds pretty good in the middle of a New York winter.

Find more about Jeremy Wright's science at The Real Catfish of Lake Tanganyika.