People

Dr. Mike Gil (he/his)

Principal Investigator

Ph.D., University of Florida, USA (2015)

B.S., University of Texas at Austin, USA (2008)

michael.gil [at] colorado.edu

Ramaley C-389

I’m broadly interested in the intersection of ecology, evolution, conservation, and animal behavior. I use a combination of field experiments and modeling to understand how individual decision-making by wild animals can shape ecosystems and how these systems respond to human-driven environmental change. Much of my empirical work has focused on spying on fish in coral reefs, ‘Big Brother’/‘1984’-style to carefully measure (with the help of many cameras) how environmental inputs map onto behavioral outputs. My favorite study species (so far), the roving herbivores (e.g., parrotfish, surgeonfish, rabbitfish), are especially interesting to probe, because they perform the critical ecological function of controlling (by eating) algae, which can otherwise kill coral and degrade entire coral reef ecosystems. In addition to my ‘traditional Academic activities’ of research, teaching and mentoring, I founded and direct SciAll.org, a mass-science-communication platform that uses vlogging (video blogging) to humanize scientists, demystify the process of scientific discovery, and make STEM careers accessible to all. To learn more, check out SciAll.org and mikegil.com

Ella Henry (she/her)

Ph.D. student

BA & MA, University of Cambridge, UK

Hi, I’m Ella, a first-year grad student in the Gil Lab. I am fascinated by the adaptive value of collective behaviour. Social behaviour can act as a ‘hidden’ agent of selection through strengthening or relaxing the selection a trait is under, but collective behaviour’s selective pressure is rarely studied. I want to understand whether certain performance traits of group living species, such as rigid interaction rules or the use of a quorum response to reach consensus, correlate with other behavioural and physical traits. Does the presence of collective behaviour accelerate or retard the rate of evolution; does it ecologically trap populations at sub-optimal fitness peaks? What role may collective behaviour play in the evolutionary responses to anthropogenic change ‒ will behaving collectively buffer the impact of developing abiotic selection pressures, or leave species more vulnerable? Outside of my research, I am committed to making science accessible to all, through outreach in the form of podcasts, blogs and talks.

Samantha “Sam” Rothberg (she/her)

Ph.D. student

BA, Amherst College, USA

Sam is a first year PhD student in the Gil Lab. Originally from Scarsdale, NY, she has spent the past five years attending school and then working at Amherst College. In Amherst, Sam worked in labs researching chickadee social behavior and plant disease ecology. Through her research and her work leading outdoor trips, she has spent a lot of time mentoring diverse groups of students and is incredibly excited to continue to do so. Sam is interested in using field-based and mathematical methods to study the effect of social behavior on larger-scale community dynamics. She is also passionate about examining and rethinking the effect of global power structures (colonialism, capitalism, etc.) on the construction of ecological theories and conservation plans. In her free time, Sam loves to run, climb, make puns, and bake/eat dessert.

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