Movement and diet of urban flying foxes
The distribution of flying foxes in Australia is influenced by the unpredictable availability of their preferred diet, especially eucalypt blossoms. Recently, human activities, including destruction of native habitat and planting of non-native vegetation that provides predictable foraging, have altered the distribution and movements of flying foxes. The consequences of this change are important for both bat and human health, given that bats are reservoirs of Australian bat lyssavirus and Hendra virus, both of which cause fatal disease in humans. In 2010, grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) established a permanent roost in Adelaide, South Australia, several hundred kilometers outside their previous range. In collaboration with Dr. Wayne Boardman, who is leading a project to characterize the health and behavior of the Adelaide flying fox population, I am deploying lightweight GPS loggers on bats to track their foraging movements. So far I have collected 112 nights of movement data from 14 bats, and am exploring how metrics like nightly distance traveled and home range vary based on seasonal and individual predictors.
SOAR: Survey of Australian flying fox Rehabilitators
In collaboration with Dr. Michelle Baker, I developed a survey about demographic information, disease risk perception, and safety practices amongst flying fox carers in Australia. Despite a 100% rabies vaccination rate (administered to prevent transmission of Australian bat lyssavirus), we found room for improvement in use of personal protective equipment. We also recommended that carers develop Australia-wide guidelines for safety when rehabilitating bats and that the responsible government agencies in Australia support carers who rescue potentially lyssavirus-infected bats by offering compensation for costly protective equipment. The resulting paper, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, can be found here.
Capuchin social cognition
As an undergrad at Yale, I explored animal cognition research in Dr. Laurie Santos’ Comparative Cognition Laboratory. Dr. Santos’ lab studies cognition in monkeys to elucidate the underpinnings of diverse human behaviors. My senior thesis research project focused on capuchin monkey (Cebus apella) social cognition. Working alongside Dr. Kristi Leimgruber and Jane Widness, I examined punishment in the monkeys to explore the origins of the widespread cooperation we see in humans. Punishment is thought to offer a plausible evolutionary mechanism to enforce cooperation in a society by deterring non-cooperators with the threat of sanctions. Following previous research in chimpanzees, we developed a food-donation task to test whether capuchin subjects would engage in third-party punishment (when Individual A punishes Individual B for causing harm to Individual C), a behavior that has thus far only been observed in humans.
© Cecilia Sánchez, 2017. All rights reserved.