Interdisciplinary animal communication

This class has been such a treat to design and teach. We are studying how scientists communicate their research on animal communication with some ethics thrown in. The students have been troopers. They are not biology majors, but they jumped in and collected and analyzed data on social behaviors in ducks.

Then this weekend we got a behind-the-scenes tour of the local zoo where we got to help collect data on zoo animals and learn about the enrichment program, which uses the literature to create enrichment resources for every animals (each gets 6 per day!) to encourage natural behavior. Thank you SO much Joel Vanderbush for making this field trip happen!


Field work underway at the marsh

Despite flooding at Nahant Marsh, my intrepid freshman are collecting data for their independent research projects. We have some exciting questions this year like the effect of goat grazing on soil invertebrates, road salt effects on aquatic plants, Mollusk diversity across prairie habitats, and so much more! Stay tuned…


ABS 2019

The Animal Behavior Society annual meeting in Chicago was outstanding! I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the WFAB mentorship program where I met amazing peers. I attended many thought-provoking talks and posters. And I’m so proud of my students! Chris Kopack gave an amazing talk, and Aaron Wikle won honorable mention for his poster about vibrational communication in our Hawaiian field crickets!

I had the pleasure of organizing a symposium about how new animal conversations begin. All of our speakers were wonderful, and I learned so much. Perhaps my favorite part was the co-talk Robin and I gave that included high fives. Thank you so much Gil Rosenthal, Molly Morris, Rafa Rodriquez, Damian Elias, Malcolm Rosenthal, and Brett Seymoure for participating!

I met so many brilliant and fun people–I can’t wait for ABS next year!


This might be our largest field crew yet! We’ve been collecting lots of data across several islands, and I’m so excited for the upcoming papers. It’s been a joy to work with all of the talented graduate and undergraduate students.

We have also gotten to work with lots of local people on this trip including students from Brigham Young University and sisters from the Kalaupapa Convent.

And of course we squeezed in some time for fun!



Cricket Party

The first annual St Ambrose Cricket Party was a roaring success! Twenty-seven seniors presented original research at Rozz Tox, a quirky coffee shop/pub in Rock Island, IL. The space was filled with members of the public, friends, family, and SAU affiliates. There were cricket themed drink specials and even cookies and brownies made with cricket flour (yes real dead crickets but not our research animals). I’m so proud of the research my students completed and the enthusiastic expert way in which they presented it. #proudmentor #purringcrickets


Community engagement in Davenport

Nahant Marsh invited us to present our research to the public. Friends of Nahant joined for a breakfast where my freshman presented original research, which they conducted at the marsh last fall. Thank you Andrew Powell, Collin Link, Spencer Schlarmann, Jacob Mulvihill, and Liv Skelly-Williams for representing SAU with such poise. They discussed their research expertly and with confidence. #proudmentor

Slug hunting!

It’s finally warm enough for fieldwork, so SAU Intro Bio students headed to the woods to collect slugs. We caught three different species and lots of them. This week we are setting up experiments to test lots of original hypotheses including how far slugs will go for a beer (one of their favorite foods), whether hormones like melatonin effect food consumption, and even if dubstep music deters slugs. Stay tuned!

Rhizobia homes!

SAU Inro Bio students uprooted their clovers to see if the legumes had formed symbiotic relationships with the soil bacteria, called rhizobia. Success! It differed across treatments, and almost every tiny clover plant formed root nodules to house rhizobia bacteria. The rhizobia fix nitrogen for the plant in exchange for food and a home. Science is SO COOL!

Everything’s coming up clovers

Intro bio students are studying the relationship between nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia) and legumes (clovers). These tiny clovers have been in different soil treatments forming nodules to house rhizobia. This week we get to count them!