Sonny S. Bleicher V. Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies
2014 Ph.D. Evolutionary Ecology - University of Illinois at Chicago
2012 M.Sc. Dryland Ecology - Ben Gurion University of the Negev
2009 B.S. Environmental Science - Rochester Insitute of Technology
I (Sonny Bleicher) consider myself to be in the broadest definition an evolutionary ecologist. However, my research interests also include aspects of behavioural, spatial, movement, foraging and conservation ecology.
My research primarily focuses on predator-prey interactions and how the risk of predation drives the strategic decisions made by individuals and populations. On larger geographic and longer evolutionary scales, I am interested in how predation risk provides the evolutionary mechanisms of coexistence between species. Thus driving the structure of biological-communities. My research can be divided into three categories: theoretical, applied and interdisciplinary.
On the theoretical level, I am interested in understanding how biological and geographic elements change the way animals perceive, and understand, their environment. In manipulative experiments, I coax apart these factors, and test how each element changes the habitat use in prey populations. Some of the factors I study include: predator facilitation (or interference); costs associated with living in groups; energetic state (hunger and food availability); competition within populations and between species; competition for mates; parental care; and more.
Within applied ecology, my research aims to couple behavioural indicators to current populations monitoring to provide rapid, accurate measures of the way populations respond to either management regimes or disturbance from human sources. My current research provides examples where prey activity, modeled into a spatial representation of habitat use, provides evidence to the success or failure of management plans. Examples include revealing a clash between conservation and recreation, as well as the partial success of a habitat augmentation project with recommendations of ways to increase efficiency of the management plans. I am interested in applying some of these methods to pest and invasive species management.
Aiming to foster collaboration between ecologists and neurologists I take an active role in the organization of interdisciplinary conferences on the study of predator-prey interactions. I was invited to author a manuscript that synthesizes the dissonance between the two fields and identify the questions in which we should collaborate. I have reached out to colleagues in the neurological field to design projects that aim to: (a) answer the eco-evolutionary mechanisms leading to the evolution of paranoia, and (b) address the neurological blocks that prevent naïve prey from properly responding to invasive predators.
Ecology +Field Lab (BIOL 245)
Environmental Studies (ENV 110)
Urban Ecology (BIOL 3XX)
Water Policy and Politics (ENV 3XX)
Environmental Science Elective
Biology of populations and communities (101)
Comparative vertabrate anatomy (lab)
1. Bleicher, S. S., B. P. Kotler, and J. S. Brown. 2019. Comparing Plasticity of Response to Perceived Risk in the Textbook Example of Convergent Evolution of Desert Rodents and Their Predators; a Manipulative Study Employing the Landscape of Fear. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 13:1–12.
2. Bleicher, S. S., H. Ylonen, T. Käpylä, and M. Haapakoski. 2018. Olfactory cues and the value of Information: voles interpret cues based on recent predator encounters. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 72:187–199.
3. Bleicher, S. S., and M. L. Rosenzweig. 2018. Too much of a good thing? A landscape-of-fear analysis for collared peccaries (Pecari tajacu) reveals hikers act as a greater deterrent than thorny or bitter food. Canadian Journal of Zoology 96:317–324.
4. Bleicher, S. S., B. P. Kotler, O. Shalev, A. Dixon, K. Embar, and J. S. Brown. 2018. Divergent behavior amid convergent evolution: A case of four desert rodents learning to respond to known and novel vipers. PLoS ONE 13:1–17.
5. Embar, K., B. P. Kotler, S. S. Bleicher, and J. S. Brown. 2018. Pit fights: predators in evolutionarily independent communities. Journal of Mammalogy 1–25.
6. Bleicher, S. S. 2017. The landscape of fear conceptual framework: Definition and review of current applications and misuses. PeerJ 1:1–14.
7. Bleicher, S. S., and C. R. Dickman. 2016. Bust economics: Foragers choose high quality habitats in lean times. PeerJ 2016.
8. Bleicher, S. S., J. S. Brown, K. Embar, and B.P. Kotler. 2016. Novel predator recognition by Allenby’s gerbil (Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi): do gerbils learn to respond to a snake that can “see” in the dark? Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution 62:178–185.
9. Kotler, B. P., J. S. Brown, S. S. Bleicher, and K. Embar. 2016. Intercontinental-wide consequences of compromise-breaking adaptations: the case of desert rodents. Israel Journal of Ecology & Evolution 62:186–195.
10. Bleicher S.S., Haapakoski M., Morin D., Kaapala T., and and Ylonen, H. 2019.Balancing food, activity and the dangers of sunlit nights. Behavioral Ecology and Socio Biology. 73: 7. 95-103
11. *Bleicher, S. S., and C. R. Dickman. Artificial shelters alter dunnart’s landscape of fear (Accepted Journal of Mammalogy – August 2019)
12. *Bleicher S.S., Brown J.S., C.J. Downs, Kotler B.P., Heteromyid rodents play their evolutionary strengths and provide examples of opposite snake evasion strategies in face of danger from a known and novel snake (Accepted with minor edits Journal of Arid Environments, August 2019)