As a typical student of psychology, I was always fascinated with the mind, particularly the way in which the mind is able to receive complex stimuli from the environment and interpret this information as something meaningful. I remember taking a course in physiological psychology, my first exposure to the biological basis of behavior. The fact that one can identify the very mechanisms behind complex behaviors hooked me. Over time, I found that my scientific interests lie not only with the human brain, but with brains of all sizes and species. My area of research has been and continues to be rooted in comparative cognition and comparative neurobiology. I received much of my training when I attended graduate school at the University of South Florida. There I studied the visuo-cognitive abilities in birds and compared these findings to these same abilities in other highly visual animals, such as primates. Though I trained as a comparative neuroanatomist, I have also conducted many behavioral studies aimed at identifying visual cues used by birds to process complex visual stimuli. After a brief visit to work in the comparative cognition laboratory of Dr. Shigeru Watanabe at Keio University, I returned with many new skills and continue to investigate higher visual processing in birds.
As an assistant professor of psychology here at Georgia Regents University, my goal is to expand on this line of research by studying avoidance and escape behaviors in birds by integrating questions concerning social situations targeting fear and escape behaviors as they occur naturally. For instance, how do birds visually recognize natural predators? What specific signals are necessary to elicit an escape response and what are the underlying mechanisms that control this important behavior? An understanding of the fear response in birds, and how it compares to that of mammals, will be useful in terms of understanding how evolutionary forces influence behavior and brain design.