Stephen Ratchford




St. Thomas


College of Science and Mathematics

Area: Sensory Ecology, Animal Behavior

Abstract of Research: My research interests center on the subject of sensory ecology in the marine environment. This field combines aspects of animal behavior, sensory physiology, and marine ecology. I am interested in how information available for animal decision making is affected by limitations of sensory structures and by limitations of the informational cues. As humans, we are visually oriented and not very reliant on our sense of smell. The marine environment is light-limited, and marine animals are bathed in chemicals. So to understand and appreciate their behavior, we cannot always use our visually oriented intuition. We may need to explore the roles of smell and taste in water. Much of my research of late has focused on the group forming behavior of spiny lobsters. Students in my classes have also developed small studies regarding chemical cues for sex change in hermaphroditic fish, as well as, chemical cues for spawning of common sea urchins.