Biography

I’m interested in cognitive aspects of antipredator behavior, such as the importance of gathering information, the content of collected information, and how acquired information leads to subsequent behavioral decisions.  More specifically, I research the risk assessment strategies that prey employ when negotiating ambiguous threat (e.g. a predator is not present, but its prior activity at a site is associated with the potential for risk from a secondary source, such as a trap).  In addition, I’m interested in the variable responses of individuals towards threat, or the prevalence of behavioral syndromes in an antipredator context.

As Director of the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment, I'm also interested in environmental conservation and the promotion of F&M as a leader in the sustainability movement.

Education

Doctorate of Philosophy in Wildlife Biology                
 2004-2008  Utah State University
Dissertation:  Cognitive and behavioral responses of the coyote (Canis latrans) toward ambiguous threat

Bachelor of Science in Biology                                       
1998-2002  College of Charleston
Bachelor’s Essays:  Musculature of the preorbital fossa of muntjac deer, Evolution of the sea otter


Research

Cognitive aspects of antipredator behavior; behavioral consequences of anthropogenic activity; behavioral syndromes; cognitive ecology; behavioral ecology; large carnivore conservation, impacts on biodiversity, attitudes towards nature

Publications

Gauging the unknown: coyotes (Canis latrans) assess the risk of an ambiguous threat
Dawson, S. and M. Jaeger, in preparation for Canadian Journal of Zoology

Information-gathering and its role in risk assessment for the coyote, Canis latrans 
Dawson, S. and M. Jaeger, in preparation for Animal Behaviour

What do you know?  Coyotes (Canis latrans) process information associated with human activity and distinguish the bad guys from the other guys
Dawson, S. and M. Jaeger, in preparation for Animal Cognition

Musculature of the preorbital fossa of the muntjac deer, Muntiacus reevesi
W.J. Hillenius and S. Dawson, in preparation

Cognitive inference and behavioral syndromes in the coyote (Canis latrans)
Dawson, S. and M. Jaeger.  2009.  Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.  68-69.

Presentations

Dawson, S. and M. Jaeger.  2008.  What do you know? Coyotes process information associated with human activity and distinguish the bad guys from the other guys.  Presented at the Animal Behavior Society’s annual meeting, Snowbird, Utah, USA.

Dawson, S. and M. Jaeger. 2008.  Behavioral syndromes and the role of investigation in decision-making for coyotes (Canis latrans).  Presented at the Canine Science Forum 2008, Budapest, Hungary.

Dawson, S.  2005.  The response of coyotes (Canis latrans) to prior anthropogenic activity.  Presented to the Utah State University Department of Wildland Resources, Logan, UT, USA.                                    

Dawson, S. and C. Keffer.  2001.  Reliance on auditory and visual information in the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris.  Presented to the College of Charleston Department of Biology, Charleston, SC, USA.

Student Collaborations

My work with students is focused on changes in wildlife behavior brought about by anthropogenic impacts and biodiversity conservation.  Research subjects currently include eastern coyote impacts on biodiversity and training honeybees to avoid plants with synthetic chemicals.  

I currently have one spot in my research program available for an upperclassman interested in examining the impact of large predator presence on small vertebrate species richness in local forests ecosystems.

Course Information

ENV 170 Tooth and Claw: Conserving Ecosystems with Predators

ENV/BIO 360 Wildlife Conservation for a Changing Planet

ENV 361 This is Garbage