Field work - - -

Elephants bathing.
     I study wild, free-ranging Asian elephants in Udawalawe National Park (UWNP), Sri Lanka. This park, roughly 325 sq. Km, is home to one of the highest densities of Asian elephants anywhere in Asia. Despite their size, we know very little about these intelligent social mammals. My primary interest is to describe their social structure and vocal communication. I also hope to explore the ecological factors that have shaped both Asian elephant society and its communication system. Both males and females can be found in groups, but as male groups don't appear to be very stable, it is the females and calves that I concentrate on.

     Together with my local counterparts, I have created an identification catalogue of around 300 females. We have recently begun to work on males, and have already counted up to 100. This is quite a bit higher than the population that was expected to live in this relatively small reserve, generating a lot of local curiosity and interest in our work.

Data collection.      Data is gathered by spending the whole day (10-12 hours!) in the field, usually driving or looking for shade near a grazing, bathing, playing, or sleeping group of elephants. We do this several times a week, and have been monitoring continuously since June 2006. We mark locations of all sightings via GPS and try to follow animals we recognize for as long as they stay visible.

     We audio- and video- record calls whenever they occur, including infrasonic sounds. But elephants produce many different sounds, some of which are difficult to believe as originating from elephants. A description of all the different types of calls we've come accross, and their apparent functions will be coming out in Behaviour, summer of 2010. Some of these calls have never been described before.

     We then tie together the descriptions of social organization and vocal communication to understand how vocal communication helps to maintain social ties among individuals.

     One of my long-term goals is to maintain demography at this site. We have begun to record births, growth, and deaths. No continuous dataset like this exists for Asian elephants so far.



Hear and see an audio slideshow of our work:



- - - Other work

me them A workshop for the Uda Walawe trackers and staff.

them me At the Zoological Network, Open University of Sri Lanka.

School1 School2 Ashoka, speaking at a school in Uda Walawe.

schematic sound      I am collaborating with Sharon S. Glaeser from Portland State University to compare my recordings of wild elephants to those of captive ones at the Oregon Zoo. We have found apparent repertoire disparities among the two demographics. These comparisons could help zoos enrich the lives of their charges, while shedding light on the functions of these calls among their wild relatives.

      In collaboration with the Center for Conservation Research and Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka, we are hoping to collar and monitor the movements of some of the elephants we have identified. This will help management determine areas of conservation value around Uda Walawe.

     Mappermaker - A collaboration with Ted Wong, Assistant Professor, at the Department of Biology in Bryn Mawr College to bring free, language-customized portable GIS to your pen-drive. Allows you to transform a QGIS platform into the language of your choice and share or search for language sets uploaded by other users. Take it with you to remote areas, use it as a teaching tool for non-English speakers. Make basic (yet powerful) GIS technology accessible to your target group.



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