Brittany L. HancockBH1.jpg (9571 bytes)



B.S. Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara, 2000

B.A. Global Studies, University of California Santa Barbara, 2000

M.S. Animal Behavior, San Diego State University, expected May 2006


Ecological Research Experience

Undergraduate Research at UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA:  As an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara I worked for two years on various projects as a lab assistant in the Marine Biology Department.  I assisted one of the post doctorates on a project to record data on juvenile fish recruitment on kelp mats, and on a project to determine the age of individual sheephead fish through the annual growth rings present on their dorsal spines.  I also worked for the section of the PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) project being conducted at UC Santa Barbara.   The purpose of the project was to monitor the interactions occurring between species in various intertidal as well as subtidal regions along the California coast. My duties included assisting in the digital mapping of distribution patterns of various algal species, as well as monitoring experiments in the field on predator-prey interactions of invertebrates.  We studied the effect certain predator species such as sea stars and whelk snails had on two prey species of mussels.  While in Santa Barbara, I gained experience doing laboratory techniques such as preparing specimens with drummel tools and fine scale microscope work.


Cetacean Research Experience

In April of 2000, I was fortunate enough to begin interning at the Cetacean Behavior Laboratory at San Diego State University.  I helped researchers with projects on aspects of photo-identification, behavior, and acoustics of bottlenose dolphins.  I became very involved with the photo-identification work taking place in the Cetacean Behavior Laboratory and began spending most of my time learning and acquiring the technology associated with this research methodology.  I assisted researchers with the managing of photo identification data from studies in Monterey, CA, San Quitin and Ensenada, Mexico, and Belize, Central America.  I have also created a training exercise to assist interns in reliably recognizing resights of individual dolphin fins.


In March of 2001 I had the opportunity to begin studying bottlenose dolphins off of the coast of Belize, Central America.  With this work I continued doing the research that had been started in 1992 (Campbell et al. 2002).  In this work I led a team of volunteers that collected data on various aspects of the natural history of bottlenose dolphins that inhabit that area.  Data collection included: photographs of each individual, environmental data, group size information, and behavioral data.  I also composed and gave presentations to visiting participants on the ecology of whales, dolphins, coral reefs, and coral reef fish.


Current ResearchBH2.jpg (12770 bytes)

While interning at the Cetacean Behavior Laboratory and studying in Belize, I realized that I am very interested in not only the methodology involved with photo-identification, but also the social structure and site fidelity of cetaceans. The study I conducted in Belize will provide data for analysis on social affiliation and site fidelity, which I plan to present as my thesis.  I am interested in exploring why some individuals seem to interact closely while others from the same species and same populations do not. I would also like to study why some individuals stay in one area while others travel extensively. I will be exploring the notion that prey distribution and abundance may an important role bottlenose dolphin social structure.  I also would like to write a paper to be published in a journal on these findings.  I feel that through this work I can enhance the scientific community’s knowledge of social structure on an animal that we still know so little about.


Additional Interests

Currently, I continue to work as a naturalist, and dolphin researcher for the Oceanic Society, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco.  Although I am not collecting my data for my thesis anymore in Belize I still enjoy leading trips for volunteers and educating them about Belize and its unique ecology.



While not studying cetaceans I enjoy scuba diving and walking on the beach.  I also enjoy dancing and photography.  I am also an avid reader of political ecology books and am very interested in developing nation environmental sustainability.  I do want to take this opportunity to thank my family for their undying support.   Thank you to my mother who inspires me to love nature and to my father who inspires me to live out my dreams. 


Literature Cited

Campbell, G.S., Bilgre, B.A., and R.H. Defran. 2002. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Turneffe Atoll, Belize: occurrence, site fidelity, group size, and abundance.   Aquatic Mammals 28.2, 170-180.