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Mya Thompson
2005-2006 CSIP Fellow

Research Interest:
Neurobiology and Behavior

I am interested in learning about the social lives of animals through studies of vocal communication. My research focuses on what the vocalizations of elephants can tell us about their social system. Over what distances can family members stay in touch? How do males and females find each other to mate? Do elephants experience social contagion like humans do in crowded situations?

As a CSIP fellow, I hope to bring the theme of animal communication into science classrooms. Because each species perceives the world through senses tuned specifically for their survival, any investigation of other animal’s sensory worlds forces us to consider life from their point of view. The process of stepping outside human reference points is an important skill in science. The world of bioacoustics holds sensory surprises such as bat and dolphin echolocation above the level of our hearing and whale and elephant vocalizations made well below our level of hearing. In my research, most of the discoveries are made not in the field but back at the lab once the audio and video recording are closely examined. For this reason, many interesting questions about elephant communication can be tailored for discrete classroom projects using recordings of wild elephants from my field site in central Africa. In my experience visiting local classrooms, students are captivated by the study of elephants. I welcome the opportunity to transform initial excitement about a charismatic animal into longer-term classroom investigations.

 

 

 

 

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