Field Frame Friday: To know the seal, one must BE the seal!

When data collection is cancelled because of the pandemic, one must get creative to stay connected to their study species. For me, this means free-diving in Monterey Bay. Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are often found in the kelp forests, using different strategies for foraging and hunting. One strategy is called the sit-and-wait, where seals can…

Scholar Holler: Sabrina Mederos

It’s 2020 and this year has been full of surprises and lessons. In fact, one news site (The Atlantic) deemed 2020 as the “second-most traumatic year in American history”, and yet we still have months to go. While quarantining at home, attempting to get work done, I find myself reminiscing about simpler times, and reflecting…

Newsroom: In-air hearing in walruses

Sound travels much farther than visual cues in the marine environment. As a result, many marine mammals rely on sound to gather information about their surroundings, search for prey, avoid predators, and communicate with others of their species. For walruses, vocalizations play an important role in communication and mating displays during the breeding season. As their…

Sunday Sketch: Color me intrigued

Stump-tailed macaques (Macaca arctoides) are a vulnerable species of macaques found in South and Southeast Asia. These monkeys are known for their interesting color patterns. The infants of this species are born with white fur which gradually darkens with age. Older individuals are identified by their dark-colored faces with black or brown patches. Fact and…

Field Frame Friday: Moose? Mooses? Meese?

Moose (Alces americanus) will dive in lakes for aquatic plant species despite the fact that there is ample, accessible, nutritious, woody vegetation on land and swimming and diving is a more costly form of locomotion. This behavior used by moose to supplement terrestrial vegetation was a mystery until scientists discovered that aquatic plants are much…

Ask a Scientist: Caching

Why do I see some birds take seeds out of the bird feeder but hide them in our garden rather than just eat them?

Field Notes: Ruminations on integrated crop-livestock systems.

As I shifted the sheep from one grazed section of the field to the next luscious cover crop patch, they moved in threes, filling the width of the corridor.  They became more frantic to get to wherever the sheep in front was going, and the electric netting that formed the corridor leaned precariously on its side….

Creature Feature: Hummingbirds

Good things come in small packages! This saying perfectly describes our flying, flower-loving friends, the hummingbirds.

Field Frame Friday: She sells snail shells down by the sea shore

Certain characteristics of land snails correlate with environmental conditions, for instance larger snails are found in more moist habitats. Pheromones of conspecifics can also influence growth rate at large population densities such that smaller snails are found when population density is high. Snail shell height is influenced by the angle of the habitat where the…

Field Frame Friday: A handsome collar fit for a cow

This cow (Bos taurus) is modeling a custom-made GPS collar that will be used to collect data on grazing behavior. Collars have to be sturdy and robust, so that these mischievous girls will not shake them off or rub them off while they are grazing extensive rangelands. The GPS devices in these collars store the…

A Tail of Two Kitties: The Beauty of Being Blind

The classroom is very different from the real world. This is something those of us that study animals and their behavior understand on a fundamental level. However, seeing concepts play out in real life that are usually taught in university lecture halls can be surprising and powerful. Instead of seeing textbook figures on PowerPoint slides,…

Online Resources for the Promotion of Diversity

Diversity and inclusion have recently garnered a lot of attention, but related issues have been around for centuries and for many, are apparent in everyday lives. There are many different definitions of diversity and inclusion. The best definitions I’ve seen for these words is given by Diversity.com, with “diversity” meaning: “The full range of ways…

Newsroom: Pair-living limpets

The love lives of lone limpets may be lackluster, but limpets in pairs are luckier in love. A new study conducted by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa revealed that lowly limpets have fascinating mating behavior!

#SciComm: Selfish or selfless?

“Looks good! Except. What is ‘phytoplankton’?” I chuckled as I read the text message from my editor, once again surprised at my oversight. I had just sent her my latest article on whale feeding habits, and as per usual, her text reminded me that I took some forms of scientific knowledge for granted. I am…

Creature Feature: Pin-tailed whydah

This parasitic bird has moved across the world to the Hollywood hills with dreams of making it big in Los Angeles. But will it succeed, and will it threaten native species?

Sunday Sketch: Are You a Squitter?

Spotted hyenas are no quitters, but they are squitters! A squitter is the annoying, grating sound a spotted hyena cub makes when it wants its mother to let it nurse. This sound is just one of about a dozen distinct vocalizations in the spotted hyena repertoire. Other calls in include “whooping”, “giggling”, “lowing”, and “alarm…

Sunday Sketch: Interrupt Much?

Meerkats use a variety of vocalizations to communicate in their tightly knit social groups, but all that talking takes coordination. And that coordination takes skill. Meerkats are particularly fond of communicating when they are “sunning”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Meerkats’ “sunning calls” are a special vocalization that only occurs during…

Field Frame Friday: Eavesdropping to survive

Although they aren’t particularly vocal themselves, Malagasy spiny-tailed iguanas (Oplurus cuvieri) have learned to distinguish the predator alarm calls of their forest coinhabitants – including from those animals’ normal vocalisations. This “eavesdropping” allows the iguanas to get away before they become a tasty snack to local birds of prey. [Photo and caption by Meredith Lutz]…

Creature Feature: The kelp forest—an underwater housing crisis

Let’s take a dip into the dark, chilly waters of northern California, where upwelling supplies nutrients to a forest canopy of slick, bulbous kelp tendrils, tangles of verdant sea grasses, and richly iridescent seaweeds. Kelps are considered “ecosystem engineers” as they provide habitat structure and modulate nutrient dynamics for a diverse host of tenants.

Sunday Sketch: A whole snake? Piece of cake!

Snakes can eat a wide variety of animals due to their many feeding adaptations that allow them to consume animals that are bulkier and larger than what would seem possible at first glance. Snakes often eat other animals with elongated body plans such as other snakes, eels, and lizards. Still, they certainly can’t eat anything…

Ethogram Statement of Solidarity

We stand in solidarity with the Black members of our community whose paths within academia and society have been challenged by structural racism and oppression. We see and vehemently oppose the blatant acts of ongoing police brutality. More broadly, we condemn the systemic and structural racism that allows for the excessive use of force and the lack…

Sunday Sketch: Gentle Giants

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the largest fish on the planet and can grow up to 18 meters in length! Now if you’ve seen Jaws, you must be wondering: Can it eat me? If so, why haven’t I heard of these sharks before? Well, whale sharks are filter-feeders and feed on plankton (very small crustaceans and fish) so they hardly make the news. More…

Creature Feature: Sulphur-crested cockatoo

Since Snowball the sulphur-crested cockatoo went viral with his dance moves, plenty of cockatoos and other parrot species have been observed boogieing to their favorite jams. What makes these birds such good dancers? The leading hypothesis is that their innate vocal learning ability has equipped them with the special perceptual and cognitive tools that allow them to feel the rhythm and move to a beat.

Sunday Sketch: Aquatic Landscapers keep coral reefs tidy and thriving

Coral reefs & algae have a symbiotic relationship, where single-celled algae (called zoozanthellae) living inside corals provide energy to build the intricate calcium-carbonate structures that host an entire underwater ecosystem (for more on reef-building corals check out this Creature Feature). However, as with most things in life, too much of a good thing can turn bad; too…

Sunday Sketch: Shrimp Make Good Moms and Dads

Peppermint shrimp (Lysmata boggessi) are a common ornamental salt water aquarium invertebrate species beloved by many hobbyists for their bright candy cane stripes and lively behaviors. What most people don’t know is that these shrimp are considered protandric simultaneous hermaphrodites. When they first reach adulthood they have male reproductive organs, but as they get bigger they…

Field Notes: Research in the time of COVID-19

COVID19 has been a tough pill to swallow for everyone, from teachers, to parents, to everyday employees. The global pandemic has caused unprecedented impacts not only on the workforce and economy, but everyday life as well. Academic research has both suffered and flourished in new and surprising ways under the heel of COVID19. Last month, as we were all adapting to stay-at-home orders, we highlighted some of our animal behavior researchers’ pandemic version of “the field.” For this month’s field notes, we are checking in with them to find out just how the pandemic has impacted their research for worse, or for better.