Sonny S. Bleicher Ph.D.
I (Sonny Bleicher) consider myself to be in the broadest definition an evolutionary ecologist. However, my research interests also include aspects of behavioural, spatial, movement, foraging and conservation ecology.
My research primarily focuses on predator-prey interactions and how the risk of predation drives the strategic decisions made by individuals and populations. On larger geographic and longer evolutionary scales, I am interested in how predation risk provides the evolutionary mechanisms of coexistence between species. Thus driving the structure of biological-communities. My research can be divided into three categories: theoretical, applied and interdisciplinary.
On the theoretical level, I am interested in understanding how biological and geographic elements change the way animals perceive, and understand, their environment. In manipulative experiments, I coax apart these factors, and test how each element changes the habitat use in prey populations. Some of the factors I study include: predator facilitation (or interference); costs associated with living in groups; energetic state (hunger and food availability); competition within populations and between species; competition for mates; parental care; and more.
Within applied ecology, my research aims to couple behavioural indicators to current populations monitoring to provide rapid, accurate measures of the way populations respond to either management regimes or disturbance from human sources. My current research provides examples where prey activity, modeled into a spatial representation of habitat use, provides evidence to the success or failure of management plans. Examples include revealing a clash between conservation and recreation, as well as the partial success of a habitat augmentation project with recommendations of ways to increase efficiency of the management plans. I am interested in applying some of these methods to pest and invasive species management.
Aiming to foster collaboration between ecologists and neurologists I take an active role in the organization of interdisciplinary conferences on the study of predator-prey interactions. I was invited to author a manuscript that synthesizes the dissonance between the two fields and identify the questions in which we should collaborate. I have reached out to colleagues in the neurological field to design projects that aim to: (a) answer the eco-evolutionary mechanisms leading to the evolution of paranoia, and (b) address the neurological blocks that prevent naïve prey from properly responding to invasive predators.