I have been captivated by animals for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I desperately wished I could talk with them, and was obsessed with movies (Dr. Doolittle, Tarzan), shows (The Wild Thornberrys, Scooby-Doo), and books (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Golden Compass) with characters who could do so. This translated to an early and avid fascination with animal behavior and communication, which has evolved into a keen interest in understanding how different animals use acoustic communication to navigate their worlds.
I did my undergraduate degree at Carnegie Mellon University, where I studied biology, psychology, and environmental science. After that, I spent two years doing a motley of jobs and internships—studying the genes involved in deep sea squid bioluminescence in California, researching bottlenose dolphin foraging strategies in Florida, and rehabilitating stranded sea turtles in Mississippi, to name a few—to better figure out what topic I wanted to conduct research on in graduate school. The answer came while I was working as a field assistant in Argentina, helping conduct acoustics research on southern right whales.
In 2016, I started a Ph.D. at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia) with Dr. Hal Whitehead, looking at spatial and temporal variation in sperm whale social vocalizations. As a Ph.D. student, I was able to spend hundreds of hours in the field with sperm whales (largely off Dominica, in collaboration with the Dominica Sperm Whale Project). My research interests evolved throughout my time in the field and lab, and include cultural evolution of communication systems, the interplay between vocal and social complexity, rhythm in vocalizations, and developing methods to facilitate acoustic analyses.
I defended my Ph.D. in November (“Dialects over space and time: cultural identity and evolution in sperm whale codas”) and am now a member of the Comparative Bioacoustics Group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. I work on a variety of projects as a CBA member, including rhythmic characterization of penguin and pinniped vocalizations. Outside of research, I enjoy bouldering, macro photography, reading, and playing chess.