Dr. Tom D. Schultz
Ph.D. in Zoology from University of Texas at Austin, 1983
A.B. in Biological Sciences from University of Chicago, 1977
Communication signals have both content, information intended to change the behavior of a receiver, and structural properties that determine how the information is transmitted from sender to receiver. My research concerns how the structural properties of visual signals evolve and are shaped by the ecology and environment of animals, whether they are detected by mates, rivals, or predators.
The males of many animals exhibit conspicuous colors that attract mates, advertise fitness, and mitigate conflict between rivals. However, visual signals may be intercepted inadvertently by other species and intentionally by predators. Color patterns evolve in response to some or all of these selection pressures within the limits of an animal's ability to see and produce color. Damselflies are an excellent group of organisms for studying these tensions, as they are highly visual, sexually dimorphic, and vulnerable to visual predators. Some species exhibit courtship displays, territorial behavior, or occur in assemblages of closely related species where signals may be confused. The learning and behavioral repertoires of damselflies are limited and their visual environments are relatively simple to characterize. These qualities make it possible to focus on the properties of color signals that make them more or less easy to detect, and their role in transmitting information.
I am also especially interested in the function of structural colors in insects, which have unique optical properties that may be tuned to certain viewing conditions. Insects produce structural colors through ultrastructural modifications of their exoskeleton. In combination with pigments, structural colors have the capacity to produce a wide variety of adaptive color patterns ranging from the flashing iridescence of some damselflies to the camouflage of tiger beetles.
Click on images to enlarge.
Publications* Student co-authors
I find it very satisfying and fun to explore the natural world, but my real passion is for the learning process. The challenge of being exposed to a new idea, questioning it, evaluating it, and even testing it, is very fulfilling for me. I especially enjoy making connections between seemingly disparate ideas or concepts in different disciplines (an important ability in a time when boundaries between scientific disciplines are becoming blurred). The courses I teach all involve integrating different approaches and levels of organization. Sometimes I think I have the perfect job in that I am paid to learn new things and share them with students, and to help them to develop a "Swiss Army Knife" of critical thinking skills. With these skills, they can become good leaders and thoughtful citizens in any field, and better able to face the uncertainty of the future.
One of the best
aspects of being at a small college is the opportunity for close
faculty-student collaboration on independent research. I have had the
pleasure of advising a number of undergraduate students who have
conducted a variety of outstanding research projects, many of which
have been presented at national scientific meetings. As a research
advisor, I involve students in my studies of insect behavioral ecology
or enlist students interested in conservation biology in conducting
inventories and monitoring studies at the Bio Reserve and other sites
in Licking County. In almost all cases, these projects require a
summer of field work prior to the senior year. In the past, my summer
research students have been supported with Anderson Research
Fellowships or stipends provided through the Denison University
Research Projects Supervised
Brindle, A. 2008. Differing social environments between primate populations may generate false positive evidence of cultural variation. *
Gorsich, E. 2008. Ommochrome signaling in male Enallagma damselflies: can long wavelength coloration be correlated with territorial behavior? *
Bring, B. 2007. A study of odonate community development, habitat preferences, and colonization among ponds and artificial wetlands at Dawes Arboretum.
Horn, J. 2007. Suburban habitat fragmentation: effects on migratory and residential songbirds in Central Ohio. *
Symes, L. 2007. Polychromatism and sex identity signals in the damselfly genus Enallagma. *
Symes, L. 2006. Polychromatism in the damselfly Enallagma civile and an assessment of the Male-Mimicry Hypothesis. (Poster presented at 2006 Meeting of the Ecological Society of America).
Hughes, D. 2005. The interspecific roosting behaviors of the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) and Black Vulture (Corapgys atratus).
Dunlevy, J. 2003. Investigations of summer bird residents at five sites within Licking County.
Anderson, C. 2002. Enallagma damselfly colors as visual signals in relation to ambient light and visual backgrounds. * (Poster presented at 2002 Meeting of the Ecological Society of America).
Bucci, L. 2002. Effects of vegetation and landscape on butterfly diversity and abundance. *
Clark, E. 2002. Corellations of odonate diversity with lotic habitat characteristics.
Menninger, H. 2000. Examining the ecology of an indicator taxon: damselfly species diversity and the role of habitat heterogeneity. * (Paper presented at 2000 Meeting of Ohio Odonata Society).
Hauck, A. 1999. Correlation between male damselfly colorations and the light environments of courtship arenas. *
Menninger, H. 1999. Initiation of a long-term monitoring program for Odonata at the Denison University Biological Reserve. (Poster presented at 1999 Meeting of the Entomological Society of America).
Kirkton, S. 1997. Babes in the woods: age-specific dispersal in the territorial damselfly, Calopteryx maculata. * (Paper presented at 1997 Meeting of the Ecological Society of America).
Scheub, C. 1997. Diversity and abundance of the Papilionoidea at the Denison University Biological Reserve.* (Poster presented at 1996 Meeting of the Entomological Society of America).
Kirkton, S. 1996. Why do male ebony jeweling damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) aggregate far from territorial breeding sites? (Poster presented at 1996 Meeting of the Entomological Society of America).
Casey, J. 1996. The significance of interference colors and visual communication in Phidippus audax, the daring jumping spider. *
Godfrey, P. 1996. Optimal site choice and foraging posture of the ambush predator Phymata fasciatus. *
Forbes, B. 1995. Substrate matching and cryptic defenses in the toad bug Gelastocoris oculatus. *
Stocker, E. 1995. Spectral sensitivity of the visual system in the praying mantis, Sphrodomantis lineola. (Paper presented at the 1994 Meeting of the Entomological Society of America).
Angalich, L. 1994. Correlation between conspicuousness and escape flight behavior among species of tiger beetles. * (Poster presented at the 1993 Meeting of the Entomological Society of America).
Gallo, T. 1994. A review of the history and efficacy of the Endangered Species Act and prospect for its renewal. *
Price, C. 1994. A comparative study of insect colonization and decomposition of pig carrion in central Ohio. * (Paper presented at the 1994 Meeting of the Ohio Academy of Science).
Puchalski, J. 1994. Comparative chemical analysis of the defensive secretions of tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and leave beetles (Chrysomelidae). *
Van Antwerp, A. 1994. Light gap utilization and behavioral thermoregulation by the green forest tiger beetle, Cicindela sexguttata. * (Poster presented at the 1993 Meeting of the Entomological Society of America).
* denotes Honors Project
- Animal Behavior Society
- Coleopterist's Society
- Dragonfly Society of America
- Ecological Society of America
- International Society of Behavioral Ecology
- Ohio Odonata Society
- Society for the Study of Evolution