Over the course of my Masters degree at Bristol, I have been investigating colour variation and behavioural defenses in multiple species of decapod crabs from Northern California, Zanzibar and Southwest UK (Pachygrapsus crassipes, Hemigrapsus oregonensis, Pugettia producta, Thalamita crenata, Eriphia smithii, Pilumnus vespertilio, and Carcinus maenas thus far) in an attempt to understand how species use their coloration behaviourally. I currently use digital photography in the field accompanied by image analysis using specialized software packages, to record quantitative data on individual crab colour strategies such as background matching, disruptive coloration, masquerade and aposematism. To relate this to defensive behaviour, I have also conducted behavioural experiments using artificial predation scenarios in the field to ascertain responses to predators and how they are altered depending on the size of the crab, availability of refuges, and background matching ability. As I am studying these patterns of colour and behaviour in multiple species, I will use phylogenetically controlled comparative analyses to trace the evolution of these traits alongside ecological and social variables.
During my undergraduate degree at University of California – Davis, I engaged in research on a wide variety of subjects within ecology and evolutionary biology – starting off with flowering hormones and their regulation in the Vanilla orchid. I then moved onto mammalian coloration working with Tim Caro, collecting data on ecological variables and coming up with ways to qualitatively measure body colour to create a large dataset with which to conduct phylogenetic comparisons of coloration. I then continued this foray into colour and behaviour by studying the colour polymorphism of the brooding sea anemone at the Bodega Marine Laboratory with Eric Sanford. While there, I started observing and collecting data on crab behaviour and colours. This led me to pursue a Masters by Research to continue this research in the UK and build on this dataset.