Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SICB 2015 approaching fast!

I've been busily working on my symposia talk for SICB 2015 in West Palm Beach, FL.  I'm excited to talk about performance integration in the context of suction feeding in fishes!  I will present some ideas I have been working on in my dissertation, like a multivariate method for quantifying performance integration, as well as some new ideas about how integration can contribute to patterns of diversity in fish feeding.  If that isn't enticing enough, there are also 7 high speed videos of animals catching (or attempting to catch) prey!

Come see my talk!
Wednesday Jan. 7, 1:30pm

Friday, November 14, 2014

Call for data!

If you or anyone you know has the following data, can you pass it along?  I need predator swimming velocity and predator gape during prey capture.  Also if you happen to have performed a correlation between the two, include that.  Thanks!

Please update my Google spreadsheet

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Math, Science, Tech Day at CSU

The CSU Guppy Group volunteered for CSU Math, Science, Tech Day, where local 4th grade students from primarily underrepresented communities were invited to CSU to experience the campus and learn about research, in an effort to demonstrate that a college education is attainable and exciting.  We again used our guppies to teach about adaptation and natural/artificial selection.  One student even told me ours was the best demonstration all day, so they seemed to have enjoyed it!  Thanks to Dale and Lisa for organizing, and John, Sarah, and Austin for helping run the event!

Observing the colors on a low predation guppy

Coloring a pet store guppy

Dale discussing how environment shapes a guppy's traits

First trip to Trinidad!

Last week I took my first trip to Trinidad.  Even though it was the wet season, we needed to get fish to start a breeding experiment, so we took our chances.  Unfortunately, it poured down rain most of the time we were there, turning small creeks into raging rivers.  It started raining on our way home from the site we sampled on the second day, and the hour drive down the the windy, bumpy, mountain road we came up on turned into a dangerous, flooded, muddy mess, consequently causing the rental car agent to scowl at Cam when he returned the car.  Fortunately, we made it back and waited the rain out for the next 2 days by checking out sites and visiting the Asa Wright Nature Center, a renowned birder's paradise.  On our last day, we made up for lost time and sampled 3 sites in one day, and another team of researchers sampled a 4th site for us!  So in all, it was a successful trip, but hopefully next time it will be the dry season, and we will have more time to explore more of Trinidad.  I feel like this was my first "real" field experience, where we were basically camping at the field station - I had to sleep in a mosquito net - and I got more dirty and wet in one day than I have in an entire week!  Now I am officially a field biologist and I love it!

Using butterfly nets to catch guppies in Trinidadian streams

More photos here!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Upcoming conferences and talks

I am off to a fast start here in Fort Collins, but I am looking forward to the new experiences.  I just registered yesterday to attend and present a talk at the Guild of Rocky Mountain Ecologists and Evolutionary Biologists (GREEBs) in about a month.  This is a meeting that several members of the Ghalambor lab attend, and it brings together a wide range of local researchers from Colorado and Wyoming.  The location is also fantastic - in the Rocky Mountains when the leaves are changing! This will be a great opportunity to talk about my research to a new audience and meet other local scientists!

Also, thanks to Tim Higham for inviting me to give a symposium talk at the annual Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting in West Palm Beach, FL this January.  The symposium is co-organized with Peter Wainwright, and is titled "New insights into suction feeding biomechanics and evolution".  Not only am I excited to give an integrative and forward thinking talk on complexity and integration, but Tim and I are also working on submitting a complementary review paper to go with it.  This will be a great opportunity to get some of my ideas out and share them with lots of other researchers!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I have officially arrived in Fort Collins, CO (although I don't technically start the fellowship until Sept. 1)!  I really enjoyed spending time with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law on the drive out!  We stopped in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and the Continental Divide (NM).  I think we may have been the only ones with a rabbit at the Grand Canyon! But it was too hot to leave the boys in the car.  

Diego (dog) and Bruce (bunny) at the Grand Canyon!

I haven't had much time to settle in though, because a few days after I arrived my dad came to town in his RV.  So of course we took the obligatory road trip to get to know my new home state.  We drove through Rocky Mountain National Park where we saw pika, marmot, and elk and evaded a thunderstorm.  Then we Parked the RV at Cheyenne Mountain State Park and took the motorcycle to Pike's Peak and Mt. Evans, where it snowed both times!  We also saw a bighorn sheep and several herds of mountain goats.  On the way back home we stopped at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings to see the ruins.  See more photos here.  I guess now that I've been introduced to Colorado, it's time to get to work!

Mountain goat selfie!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Graduation and my journeys since

Sorry this post is so late, but I thought it was still worthwhile to mention that I walked in graduation!  I have also submitted all of the paperwork to graduate, including my dissertation, so the only thing left is the piece of paper to hang on the wall!  I had a really great time with my family that came into town from Texas, Maryland, and even Pakistan!  See more photos on my Google+.

Graduation procession

I've also spent some time doing those things that I haven't had a chance to yet, like heading to San Diego to meet up with the two people that I worked with during my undergraduate internship.  It was great catching up with them!  

Me and Tim Gerrodette at the new NOAA building
Me and Paula Olson

It was also a chance to do some tidepooling!  I went to San Diego twice, and on the first trip I saw an octopus!  I found it right before I had to leave.  I wanted to stay and watch it more!  On the second trip, I discovered that a particularly useful method for catching specimens is handing a net to a kid.  They put so many things in my bucket for me to identify!  Unfortunately, there are still several species of sculpin that are difficult for me to ID, including this one, despite consulting multiple field guides.  They can be so tricky!

Big sculpin someone caught for me!
I also drove up to CO a few weekends ago to check out Fort Collins and rent a house.  Because it's one of the most desirable places to live (apparently), housing is in high demand and it was difficult for me to find something that was available long enough for me to look at it.  So when I did find one that I was REALLY interested in, and that the landlord was also REALLY interested in me, Diego and I got in the car and drove up (round trip = 2149 miles!).  We ended up leasing a really nice place in central Fort Collins, right on the bike trail and a creek and about 2 miles from campus.  It was also a chance to meet up with Cameron and one of his grad students and see the lab.  I am really looking forward to the new experiences now (and another road trip)!
Utah, near the Green River
Diego in Utah

"The Summit", Colorado

Diego tuckered out at the hotel

 It's been a busy month, and now I have a ton of packing to do, but it's exciting to think about new places and new project and new phases of life.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dissertation defense

I just did my defense this morning and everything went smoothly (I passed)!  Thanks to Tim Higham, Kim Hammond, Dan Ozer, and Matt McHenry for being on my committee!  I also really appreciate everyone's efforts in celebrating, particularly the Higham Lab!  Unfortunately I don't have any photos, but you can see my title slide below:

Thanks to one of our talented undergrads, Amy Cheu, for drawing this for me!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lunch Bunch talk

I just did a talk about my planned postdoctoral research for the "Lunch Bunch" seminar series at UCR.  I could tell I was able to get people thinking about performance integration, and everyone seemed to think it was a good project!  I hope I was also able to draw people in for my dissertation defense coming up:

Tuesday, June 3, 9:10 am
Genomics Auditorium, UCR

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New papers out from members of the lab

Congratulations to my labmates Kathleen Foster and Ola Birn-Jeffery for their recent papers!

Jamacian giant anole, Anolis garmani

Kathleen's work is on muscle function across different types of climbing behaviors in green anoles.  Surprisingly, she found that muscles aren't always performing the way we might expect by watching the animals' movements.  Her paper was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (the same journal that has also published work by Newton and Darwin!) and can be found here.   Her work was also featured in this news article.  Now she will be working on looking at some of these differences in several species and ecomorphs of anoles.

Bibron's gecko, Pachydactylus bibroni

Ola (aka Aleksandra) was invited to give a symposium talk at SICB 2014 Austin, TX.  Symposium speakers are then invited to submit their review papers to Integrative and Comparative Biology, the journal published by SICB.  Ola summarized the literature on animals moving on inclines and declines, and found that animals move more slowly on inclines compared to level substrates, and that movement on declines depends on the size of the animal.  She also discussed how integrative locomotion is and suggested a lot of new areas of research!  She is currently working on examining some of these ideas in bibron's geckos. Her paper can be found here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I just received a UCR Dissertation Year Fellowship!

This fellowship supports finishing graduate students by providing a stipend and covering fees.  I had to compete against other graduate students from all departments across UCR.  I am going to use my fellowship to cover my summer funding so I am thankful to have received this award!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Accuracy paper just came out!

Check out the Journal of the Royal Society Interface for my new paper!

This is work that I completed with three species of centrarchid fishes: bluegill sunfish, green sunfish, and largemouth bass.  These fish capture prey using suction, meaning that their mouths may not even come in contact with prey during a feeding event!  The difficult part about quantifying accuracy with this kind of behavior is that this means that accuracy should not be determined relative to the predator's mouth, but instead, the suction volume.  However, the suction volume is difficult to visualize.  So I modeled this volume as a spheroid (an ellipsoid where two dimensions are equal) and used regression equations to predict the dimensions of the volume based on predator kinematics.  By using this model and 3D predator kinematics, I show that each of the three species differs in the size and shape of the suction volume generated, resulting in differences in predator accuracy when capturing evasive fish prey.  I also showed much higher accuracy in bass than what has been previously described, indicating that my more natural design might allow bass to perform more naturally, since we know they are piscivorous in nature and quite good at capturing other fish.  Finally, I also showed that my estimations of accuracy were able to predict predator capture success, meaning that accuracy is a relevant measure of performance in these fishes.  This model is important for allowing other researchers to more easily use accuracy as a performance measure in other studies, so we can begin to understand predator performance and why some species are better at capturing certain prey types.  We can also start to understand the evolution of these behaviors and how differences among species are important for shaping the diversity that we see.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

First Sundays at Riverside Metropolitan Museum

The Higham Lab hosted “Animal Olympics”, an interactive public outreach event showcasing research topics in our lab.  We had a lot of fun showing videos, playing games, and discussing our research with the public!  Special thanks to Eddie Wang (second from the right), an undergraduate who has been a tremendous help with digitizing, who came and helped me talk about aiming and accuracy!

The Higham Lab (except Kevin)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I was awarded an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship!

A Trinidadian guppy from a high predation population feeding
on brine shrimp nauplii (large black dot in front of the guppy).  This
is a still image taken from high-speed video.

I will be joining Cameron Ghalambor’s lab at Colorado State University in September.  I will use Trinidadian guppies as a model for understanding how complex phenotypes evolve.  Specifically, I will be looking at integration between feeding and locomotion in guppies and will determine the evolutionary consequences of integration on survival along the stream gradients, where selection favors feeding at the top of the streams and escape behavior at the bottom of the streams.  I will also be working with local 4th and 7th grade teachers to expand a program that uses guppies to teach about evolution and natural selection.  

Thanks also to Roi Holzman for offering me a position in his lab in Israel!  I look forward to working more with Roi in the future!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

SICB Austin 2014

I gave an oral presentation at the SICB meeting in Austin, TX Jan 2014. Congratulations to Ariel Camp and Marc Badger for winning the DCB best student papers! Also thanks to Tim Higham for snapping this photo for me.