Dr. Anjali Kumar broadly defines herself as a tropical ecologist with interests lying at the interface of conservation biology and behavioral ecology. She has worked in different Neotropical ecosystems throughout Costa Rica, Peru, and Ecuador.
Anjali's doctoral research explored the effects of landscape level changes on the behavior of a well-known top predator of tropical ecosystems, army ants (Ecitoninae). Specifically, she studied the effects of forest fragmentation and elevation on the foraging and movement of army ants in Costa Rica. She also investigated the effects of differing forest cover on the army ant - army ant following bird behavioral syndrome in the Neotropical montane butt forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Since completing her Ph.D., Anjali has taught several university level field ecology courses that focus on applying the scientific method to short field experiments. She currently teaches a summer course for undergraduates in Costa Rica through the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), based out of Duke University.
In her current position as a Postdoctoral Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Anjali is investigating the effects of mercury on tropical ecosystems. Presently, mercury is being introduced at high volumes into rivers in the Amazon basin by artisanal gold miners for use as amalgam in gold extraction. Organisms at higher trophic levels that feed on aquatic organisms should bioaccumulate more mercury than those that do not. Anjali will use three feeding guilds of bats (Chiroptera) to investigate whether bats that feed at higher trophic levels (piscivores and insectivores) accumulate a greater amount of total mercury than bats that feed at lower trophic levels (frugivores) in the Peruvian Amazon. Mercury may have detrimental effects on bat behavior and reproductive fitness as well as ecosystem health.
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