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Following Parks Lab undergraduate and graduate students as they conduct exciting research on diverse topics.

A Year in Review: Perspectives from an Undergraduate Researcher by Elaine Alberts

March 9, 2018

Hi! I’m Elaine Alberts, I am an undergraduate research assistant in the Parks Lab. I have been a part of the lab for just over a year, and it has been one of the most fun and eye-opening experiences of my entire life.

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2017 SEUS Field Season by Julia Dombroski

March 16, 2017

The official SEUS 2017 field season started on February 1st and ended on the 20th. A lot happened – and didn’t happen – over the 20 days I spent in Fernandina beach, Florida.  I was over the moon knowing that was about to see North Atlantic right whales; but I was also very anxious as I knew I would be around people I’ve never met, doing something that I had never done before but dreamed of doing since I started working with marine mammals – tagging whales. Moreover, while this was my first tag operation, the field team I was being added to has been tagging all sorts of whales all over the world for at least 6 years. Pretty intimidating, right? Well, I had a great time with the field team (on board and on land) and learned A LOT with everyone. Sadly, despite all effort, we only found one mother-calf pair. But mum and calf were very cooperative and we successfully deployed the tag after the first attempt.

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Global Soundscape Patterns by Colin Swider

January 24, 2017

As someone who studies ecosystem and animal sounds, it is hard not to get a little anxious in the middle of winter in Syracuse, New York, when all one hears is wind, human noise, and the occasional crow or house sparrow. The winter soundscape at high(ish) latitudes is a far cry from the blissful bird-, frog-, and insect-dominated soundscapes that we hear during spring and summer mornings and evenings, especially if we live outside of the city.

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It sounds like home. by Julia Dombroski

January 13, 2017

I find it truly amazing how particular sounds can transport us anywhere in our memories.

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Working with Penguins at the Zoo by Keiya Akiyama

January 4, 2017

Happy New Year! My name is Keiya Akiyama, and I am an undergraduate research assistant in the Parks Lab. Ever since I came to Syracuse University with a strong passion for becoming a veterinary surgeon, I always wanted to be part of a biological research that involves studying animals. Therefore, when I first found out about the Parks Lab, I printed out my resume and went straight to Dr. Parks’ office in the Life Science Complex despite my lack of knowledge in the field of bioacoustics.

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Adventures in Teaching by Elizabeth McDonald

December 14, 2016

My name is Elizabeth, and I am a second-year graduate student in the Parks Lab. As part of my education, I have served as a Teaching Assistant for three different biology courses at Syracuse, which has been an awesome experience, and definitely reinforced my love of sharing my knowledge and passion for science with others.

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Adventures with Crickets by gnelamir

December 6, 2016

Yesterday, I went into the cricket room like I normally do to check on my crickets and switch out their boxes for the anthropogenic noise behavior experiment. I didn’t expect to see anything special or out of the ordinary happen with the crickets-except maybe the terrifying amount we now have-but I was in for a surprise during my husbandry routine.

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The Meredith Symposium — Spotlight on Undergraduate Research by Alexandra Logan

November 28, 2016

On Saturday, October 22nd I was lucky enough to present the research I had been working on in Dr. Parks lab at the Meredith Symposium. The Meredith Symposium is put on by Syracuse University and it focuses on undergraduate research in Chemistry and Biological Sciences. In the first week of October I submitted an abstract to the symposium for my research on the effects of temperature on female preference of male calls in Metrioptera Roeselii katydids. When I submitted my abstract, I had to choose whether I wanted to present my research with a talk, a poster or either one and since I do not like to make decisions I selected the “either one” option. I did not hear back for weeks and I thought for certain that my research had not been selected. Then on October 14, about a week before the Symposium date, I received an email saying that I was selected to be one of the eight speakers at the Symposium. I was extremely excited, but I also felt a lot of pressure because I had never given a professional talk before. Not only did I have to prepare for something that was new to me, I had to do it in less than a week.

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Soundscapes and Ecoacoustics by Colin Swider

November 18, 2016

I first visited a tropical rainforest eight years ago, and immediately fell in love with the sights, the aromas, the plants and animals, and most importantly the sounds. Since that first hike through the jungle in Guatemala, I have travelled to and spent considerable time in the rainforests of about a dozen countries, from Central and South America to Borneo to Madagascar. I think the main reason I return to the rainforest time after time is to immerse myself in the incredible soundscape. A myriad of animal sounds bombards one’s ears at all times, but particularly in the early morning and late evening. Frogs, birds, insects, primates and other mammals together produce a symphony of elaborate complexity exceeding that of any classical composer.

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2016 NARW Consortium Meeting by Julia Dombroski

November 10, 2016

Year after year members of the Parks Lab have been attending the North Atlantic right whale (NARW) Consortium Meeting in order to present and discuss science toward the conservation of one of the most endangered and magnificent mammal on Earth. However, the 2016 meeting was especially important to me as it was my conference as an official member of the Parks Lab!

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Late Sunrises, Lots of Science by Leanna Matthews

November 4, 2016

Have you even been so far north where you wake up in what you think is the middle of the night and realize that it’s actually 830am?

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Can you hear me now? by Leanna Matthews

July 25, 2016

Figuring out the loudness at which an animal is vocalizing is a deceivingly difficult question to answer. To investigate this question of loudness, we use an equation that, on the surface, is deceivingly simple – the sonar equation.

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Mysterious little harbor seals… by Leanna Matthews

July 16, 2016

So far, the harbor seal data collection has gone about as good as could be expected for any new protocol.  I had a few set backs early on with equipment, which have since been resolved, and there’s also been a lot of forward progress, which is great.  The part I’m struggling the most with, actually, is the part I thought wouldn’t be a problem at all – where are the seals that are vocalizing underwater.

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Always Listening, Sometimes Watching by Leanna Matthews

July 8, 2016

Everyday the Strawberry Island field team wakes up and starts off the morning watching either whales or seals. We take a break, watch some more whales and seals, take another break, and end our evening watching whales and seals again. And throughout all of our data collection of marking what the animals are doing at the surface, our hydrophones are recording what the animals are saying underwater. We do our best to try and understand what the whales and the seals do at the surface during all times of the day, but even at our best we can only watch some of the time.

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Alaskan Adventure by Leanna Matthews

July 4, 2016

Eighteen days ago I was dropped off on an island in Glacier Bay National Park with five other people, a dozen tarps, a fair amount of scientific equipment, thirteen 5-gallon water jugs, and 36 bear cans filled to the brim with food appropriate for a camp stove.  The goals: shore-based data collection on the behaviors of humpback whales and kayak-based data collection on the surface positions of harbor seals.

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Things went wrong. They weren’t our fault. We fixed them anyway. by Leanna Matthews

November 10, 2015

A few months ago, I went to Alaska to help drop very expensive science to the bottom of the ocean.  Last week, I went back to Alaska to try and pick it back up.  “Try” is the operative word here, because often times, when you drop equipment into the ocean, you have no idea if you’ll ever see it again…

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Hello, Alaska! by Leanna Matthews

June 6, 2015

After finishing fieldwork in California, I loaded up my kayak and headed north to Corvalis, Oregon to meet up with my friend Michelle, a PhD student in the ORCAA Lab at Oregon State University. Michelle and I are part of a cooperative project with OSU, Syracuse, and the National Park Service to investigate the effects of vessel noise on the vocal behavior of harbor seals (that’s my job) and humpback whales (that part is Michelle’s) in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. During the initial phase of planning for this project, a topnotch team of bright minded acousticians and marine mammal biologists came up with a plan to address this noise issue using a four-element underwater autonomous hydrophone array and shore-based visual observations. This project has been in the works for quite a while (i.e., years), and last week it was finally time to put our hydrophone array in the ocean!

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Goodbye, California by Leanna Matthews

June 4, 2015

I recently wrapped up my first field season in California. It definitely didn’t go as planned; but then again, fieldwork never really does go the way you think it will.

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When Otters Attack by Leanna Matthews

May 12, 2015

I’m going to preface this blog post by mentioning that my field site, Elkhorn Slough, is home to over 100 sea otters. Elkhorn Slough is not a huge area, and that’s quite a few otters, so basically what I’m saying is that you can look in any direction and there’s a 90% chance you’re going to see an otter.

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How to measure a harbor seal without actually measuring the harbor seal by Leanna Matthews

April 28, 2015

Seeing as I’m still waiting on the final confirmation from the permit office, I’ve decided to use my “spare time”* to test out as much equipment as possible and get as accustomed to my field site as possible.

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A Lesson in Patience by Leanna Matthews

April 25, 2015

Take a poll of a hundred marine mammal biologists and chances are that not a single one will tell you that studying marine mammals is easy. One thing I’ve learned first hand about marine mammal research is that it takes a lot of people and a lot of paperwork to get a project going. And one thing I’ve currently been dealing with is permitting.

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Alumna Ashlei’s adventures in Africa by Dana Cusano

March 13, 2015

What do Parks Lab alumni do after graduation? Where do they go and what do they see? Our very own Ashlei Tinsley is a wonderful example of the exciting adventures that our students move on to after they walk the stage here at Syracuse University. Ashlei is working on spotted hyena research with the Holekamp Lab out of Michigan State University, but her work with them has taken her far from Michigan. She is currently living and working in Kenya, on the Masai Mara National Reserve.

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“This is either madness or brilliance” by Leanna Matthews

July 30, 2014

Every scientific journey begins with an idea.  These ideas can go one of two ways: 1) after countless trials and brainstorms, they actually work; 2) after countless trials and brainstorms, they don’t.  I think you can guess which one happens more often. 

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The Seals and the Sea Lions. And the Otter. by Leanna Matthews

May 27, 2013

The Pinniped Cognition and Sensory Systems Lab, based at the Long Marine Lab at UCSC, focuses on sensory, cognitive, and behavioral ecology of marine mammals.  Researchers work closely with the resident animals, training them with operant conditioning and positive reinforcement to voluntarily participate in various projects involving active decision making.  Some past projects include auditory masking, amphibious hearing capabilities, sound localization abilities, and short and long-term memory.  In other words, this place is awesome.  There are two big pools (22,500 gallons each), one of which can be set up to run underwater acoustic experiments.  There are also some smaller pools that house the marine mammals on the compound.  The water that fills these pools is pumped directly from Monterey Bay, and is therefore an accurate representation of nearby environmental conditions.  The lab is also equipped with soundproof acoustic chamber for in-air experiments (check out this video because the chamber is really really cool).

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Atlantic to Pacific by Leanna Matthews

May 19, 2013

A few weeks ago I got a phone call.  On the other end was the lab coordinator for UCSC’s Pinniped Cognition and Sensory Systems Lab, and she was officially offering me a position at the lab for the summer.  Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled.  This lab is doing some pretty fantastic research (be sure to check out their website) and this internship is the perfect way for me to get some experience caring for and doing research with captive pinnipeds.

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