Our research program explores the sensory, cognitive, physiological, and
behavioral ecology of marine mammals. The approach we apply to these areas is
to study individuals in controlled and natural settings. Experiments conducted
in the laboratory allow us to generate hypotheses about the perceptual and
cognitive mechanisms that enable animals to acquire, organize, and utilize
various types of information. Observations made in the field allow us to see
how perception and cognition are translated into behavior. Comparative studies
in both settings help us to understand how ecological, evolutionary, and life
history factors have influenced different marine mammal species.
program is based at Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California Santa Cruz. Here, a small group of marine mammals works closely
with researchers in psychophysical and physiological studies. The animals are trained
using operant conditioning and positive reinforcement to participate in various
research procedures, many of which involve active decision-making. In the
field, our work focuses on how individuals use sensory cues to communicate,
forage, navigate, and avoid predation. We combine sensitivity measures obtained
in the lab with vocalization and ambient noise measurements obtained in the
wild to estimate biologically significant variables such as communication
ranges, zones of masking in natural and anthropogenic noise, and directional
propagation of vocal signals. These approaches help us to better understand how
marine mammals use sound and other sensory cues in social and ecological
contexts. In terms of policy-making, our work
has direct applications for understanding the effects of noise pollution in marine habitats. For
example, we are interested in how exposure to noise may interfere with an
animal's biologically significant activities, such as a female attending her
pup or a male defending his territory during the breeding season.
research program was developed by Dr. Ronald J.
Schusterman and his collaborators over a period of more than 40 years. The
project has been based at UCSC's Long Marine Lab since 1985, and is currently
headed by Dr. Colleen Reichmuth.
How to Get
The Cognition and Sensory Systems Laboratory is
supported by a team of hard working individuals including research staff,
graduate students, undergraduate research assistants, and interns. Volunteer
research assistantships are typically offered to undergraduate students at UC
Santa Cruz who work in the lab part-time year round. Internships last 3-4
months and are full time, unpaid positions available to college students close
to completing their degrees, or to those who have finished their degrees and
intend to pursue post-graduate education in some form. For more information
about research assistantships or internships, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals
interested in graduate student positions with the laboratory should contact the
PI at this address as well. The program seeks motivated individuals with
background and/or interest in a variety of fields including biology,
psychology, physics, engineering, environmental studies, computer sciences, and
Long Marine Lab is part of the Institute of Marine Sciences at
UC Santa Cruz. The Seymour Marine
Discovery Center at LML offers tours and additional information about the
facility and ongoing research.
|An aerial view taken over the Monterey Bay of Long Marine Lab
and the Seymour Marine Discovery Center.
|Our sound attenuating, hemi-anechoic chamber where we conduct
in-air acoustic experiments (aka "the chamber").