Sunday, December 2, 2007

A little bit about me

My interests lie in the study of evolution and comparative methods, particularly as they relate to behavior. I subscribe to, and have helped develop, the unorthodox view that ontologies are appropriate data representations for studying behavior.

I'm currently a postdoc at the University of Kansas. I am currently funded from two projects:
  • Cipres - A large project devoted to developing algorithms and software for building phylogenetic trees. I work some on the infrastructure software and it also funds some of my ongoing work on Mesquite. I have been involved in several Mesquite packages, most notably the PDAP:PDTREE package, the Mesquite implementation of the correlation method of Pagel (1994), and the Bisse model (Maddison, Midford, and Otto 2007) of correlated speciation, extinction, and binary character change. I am also somewhat involved in the development of Nexml, an XML-based successor to the Nexus file format.
  • Phenoscape - A project to build a multispecies ontology of fish anatomy.
My current unfunded projects include an ontology based tool for scoring and analyzing behavior videos, called OwlWatcher, an implementation of a 'type-2' comparative method for ontologies, called EthOntos , and several improvements to the PDAP:PDTREE package.

A special, although not exclusive, area of interest in behavior is understanding how and what humans and other animals understand about the behavior of other animals. My doctoral project looked at social learning in Florida scrub-jays, training them under free-living conditions, and them allowing them to demonstrate to young hatched the following spring and in subsequent years. This works because Florida scrub-jays live on year-round territories and could be easily trained to perform a task on the ground. From social learning, I have been shifting my interest towards how animals (and humans) acquire information by watching the behavior of others.