My main scientific interests are behavioral and sensory ecology of bats. I am particularly interested which factors shape the behavior and the sensory system of the Neotropical bats. In my research I combine field work, behavioral experiments and acoustic analyses.
Innate preferences and social learning in nectar-feeding bats
There are several factors influencing foraging decisions in animals. Animals may have innate preferences towards particular resources, gather information based on trial and error experiences and, in some cases, access to information obtained by other individuals. Acquiring information from conspecifics avoids costly mistakes of individual learning; however, this information may not always be relevant or accurate. Some animals use social information only under certain circumstances, such as when they exploit novel food source or when the quality of the food is not satisfactory. There are several studies on how animal use social information during foraging. However, little is known about the role of innate preferences on foraging decisions. Furthermore, we do not know how animals integrate the information obtained from social learning and their innate preferences. To answer these questions, I will conduct a series of flight cage experiments with naïve nectar-feeding bats under controlled conditions.
Echolocation of New World leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae)
Bats perceive their environment using a wide range of sensory modes such as olfaction, vision and, most importantly, echolocation. New World leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae) show a remarkable diversity in foraging habits, with species feeding on insects, nectar, fruits, blood and small vertebrates. This high ecological diversity is not reflected in a diversity of echolocation calls; on the contrary, most phyllostomids recorded so far share a similar echolocation call structure. However, recent studies show that some phyllostomids use a more flexible echolocation than previously thought. Currently, I am conducting several projects to better understand the driving factors that shaped the echolocation behavior of New World leaf-nosed bats.
Large scale acoustic monitoring of bats
Despite the threats that many bat species face (habitat destruction, wind farming, diseases, to name but a few), large-scale long-term monitoring programs that enable scientists to determine bat population trends are non-existent in tropical countries. Existing monitoring programs are limited in time and space due to high costs and amount of human resources needed. The main goal of this project is to design, implement, and use a standardized, nationwide, long-term acoustic bat monitoring program in Mexico, integrating the latest technology in bat detectors and data analysis. This two-year-project is funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation; I am part of the experts group and in charge of the acoustic analysis.