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My research program is characterized by a multidisciplinary approach, blending field studies with novel biologging technologies and advanced modeling techniques to unravel the intricacies of organisms, from individuals to ecological systems. My overarching goal is to understand how anthropogenic disturbances influence the behavior, activity patterns, movement, population dynamics, and interactions of key species in terrestrial ecosystems—a goal which I believe is essential for conserving biodiversity.

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Geographic distribution of Ord's kangaroo rat and prairie rattlesnake. Figure 1 from Hill et al. 2023

Impacts of Climate Change on Endotherm-Ectotherm Interactions


My research plays a central role in a multi-institution, interdisciplinary project centered on developing the predator-prey relationship between prairie rattlesnakes and Ord’s kangaroo rats as a model system for understanding how altered thermal regimes could disrupt ectotherm-endotherm species interactions. My field work on these two species spans a latitudinal gradient from Canada to Mexico—a natural laboratory for observing behaviors across a dynamic thermal and environmental gradient. Our innovative methodology integrates biomechanics, physiological adaptations, advanced field technologies, and computational modeling techniques.

Next Generation Natural History


Natural history research is fundamental to both theoretical and experimental inquiry, with advancements in technology and statistics now transforming observations into systematically collected data. My research is at the forefront of this revolution, employing next-generation natural history techniques, particularly accelerometry and miniaturized GPS, to enhance our understanding of  the behavior, movement, and interactions of terrestrial vertebrates.

Graphic representation of a kangaroo rat with a biologging backpack. Created by Alexandra Coots.

Rattlesnake Behavior

Prairie ratttlesnake in ambush (West Texas; phot by Ryan J. Hanscom)


Rattlesnakes are cryptic, low energy specialists that are commonly abundant and serve as key predators in many ecosystems across North AmericaI. I study rattlesnake behavior using a mix of traditional and advanced methods. By combining radio telemetry and miniaturized GPS, I explore their spatial ecology, uncovering insights into their movements and habitat choices. Additionally, with fixed videography and accelerometry, I investigate behavior and predator-prey interactions of free-ranging individuals. This approach not only enhances our understanding of rattlesnake ecology but also blends traditional and novel biologging technologies for the first time in large-bodied pitvipers. 

Kangaroo Rat Behavior


Kangaroo rats are among the most abundant vertebrates in many terrestrial ecosystems in Western North America and are both keystone species and ecosystem engineers, providing numerous linkages between other species as both consumers and resources.I developed an approach to effectively quantify behavioral patterns of kangaroo rats using large acceleration datasets by combining miniaturized animal-borne accelerometers with radiotelemetry and advanced machine learning techniques. Thus far, I've uncovered that kangaroo rats d are particularly active during later light phases of the night (i.e., late night, morning twilight, and dawn). Additionally, there is no reduction in activity or foraging associated with moonlight, indicating that kangaroo rats are actually more lunarphilic than lunarphobic. 

An illustration of light phases considered in Hanscom et al. 2023. Artwork by Alexandra Coots.

Flat-tailed Horned Lizard Conservation

Flat-tailed horned lizard

The Flat-tailed Horned Lizard (FTHL), a threatened species emblematic of the Colorado desert, holds a crucial role as a conservation flagship. Leveraging Bureau of Reclamation funding, we aim to revolutionize the study of small, cryptic species like the FTHL by employing animal-borne activity loggers alongside artificial intelligence computational tools. Our project not only pioneers this novel approach for lizards but also generates detailed insights into fundamental FTHL behaviors. Furthermore, our research lays the groundwork for investigating whether FTHL might adapt by shifting towards nocturnal activity, potentially as a response to the escalating daytime temperatures linked to climate change. 

Traditional Natural History


I am dedicated to preserving the robust traditional of natural history research as a central focus for ecology. Alongside other research, I am consistently integrating natural history research into every aspect of my research program. I actively publish these insights as natural history notes and small projects,  as I truly believe that documenting natural history through peer-reviewed literature is indispensable to the field of conservation biology.

Parental care photo of D. conanti by Matt Grisnik

Research Funding

American Society of Mammalogists
National Geographic
National Science Foundation
The Nature Conservancy
Bureau of Reclamation
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