From fine-scale oxygen consumption to long-term lipid energy storage, my research relates animals’ movement with their physiology, environments and stressors. For example, how does a marine animal’s swimming behaviour, oxygen consumption, or energy turnover change in different turbulence and drag regimes, with entanglement in fishing gear, or with vessel exposure? How often do these interactions occur? To explore these topics, I develop and apply methods to combine physiological, movement, and acoustic data derived from free-swimming animals to quantify energetics in the context of their environment, health and other various stressors (e.g. human impacts).
As a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in the Marine Bioacoustics Lab, I am applying approaches from human medicine to study respiratory acoustics from animal-borne tag data. Phonospirometry — measuring respired airflow rates and volumes from recorded sounds — is accurate to within 15% in humans and offers an innovative approach to assess energetics and physiological responses in free-swimming marine mammals. We are developing the phonospirometry method in common bottlenose dolphins, working with animals in human care (Dolphin Quest, Oahu) and in a wild population in Sarasota Bay, Florida. This method provides remotely sensed, dynamic estimates of an animal’s respiratory condition, and changes thereof, in the context of specific behaviors or stressors. With simultaneous measurements of tidal volume, animal orientation and diving behavior, this approach provides a measure of energetic costs of detected behavioral changes.
Additional projects I am involved with in the Marine Bioacoustics Lab include testing metabolic scaling hypotheses using long-term ventilation rates extracted from an archive of bio-logging tag deployments on cetaceans from porpoises to blue whales, as well as estimation of right whale foraging efficiency and prey density from tag data.