Ellee Cook

Graduate Student, Division of Biological Sciences

I’ve always been fascinated by animals, and decided to make a career out of it by studying why animals behave in the wacky ways that they do. My research takes me to the island of Puerto Rico, where I have spent the past four summers working with a wild population of lizards called Anolis lizards. These lizards use aggressive behaviors like fighting to compete for resources such as food and space, and some lizards are more aggressive than others. I want to know why! I spend time observing these animals in their natural habitat to carefully document aggressive behaviors, and to determine how aggression differs among different lizards. I combine this behavioral information with information about the individual lizards—such as the length or weight of the lizard’s body—to try to figure out whether lizards with certain characteristics behave more aggressively than others. Using this information, we can begin to understand how aspects of an animal’s biology can influence its ability to compete for important resources like food and places to live, and ultimately, to figure out just why animals behave in the ways they do!

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