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Biology

Faculty

Angela Dassow

Assistant Professor of Biology

Straz Center 068

  • Biography
  • Education
  • Courses
  • Research

Professor Angela Dassow received her B.S. degrees in wildlife ecology and entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003. After spending several years as the head preparator and assistant curator of herpetology at a natural history museum, she joined Prof. Michael Coen’s lab and earned her M.S. in zoology in 2010 and Ph.D. in zoology in 2014. She joined the Carthage faculty in 2015.

Prof. Dassow’s research focuses on computational analyses of animal vocalizations, exploring correlates with human linguistic phenomena at the phonetic, morphological, and syntactic levels. This work has centered on understanding the vocal communication systems of wild and captive white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar); however, she has examined other species as well, ranging across a variety of taxa including cetaceans, bats, canids, and song birds. By combining aspects of ecology, linguistics, computer science, and information theory, we are able to gain new insights into the communicative abilities of white-handed gibbons and demonstrate previously unrecognized complexity and structure in their vocal communication system.

Media mentions:

Ape Conversations: Researchers Listen To, Analyze Gibbons At The Racine Zoo
Prof. Dassow researches the vocalizations of two whit-handed gibbons at the Racine Zoo. (WUWM 89.7, August 8, 2019)

Carthage team records sweet, yet secret language of gibbons
Prof.  Dassow and two students, Joy Layton and Azniv Khaligin, study the complex language of two gibbons at the Racine Zoo. (Kenosha News, July 2, 2019)

Carthage Researchers Study Gibbons to Understand How Vocal Evolution Led to Human Speech
Prof. Dassow along with students Azniv Khaligian and Joy Layton study the vocalizations of gibbons at the Racine Zoo. (Journal Sentinel, July 1, 2019)

What I Learned in Puerto Rico
Prof. Angela Dassow discusses her experiences in Puerto Rico during J-Term 2019. (Urban Milwaukee, April 3, 2019)

Women in science have made ground-breaking contributions
Prof. Dassow writes a compelling opinion editorial about Women in STEM and their powerful contributions to modern science. (Kenosha News, March 25, 2019)

Girls inspired by ‘Women in Science’ event
Prof. Dassow participates in Kenosha Public Museum event celebrating women in science. (Kenosha News, March 23, 2019)

Insects: A new source of protein coming to a supermarket near you
Prof. Angela Dassow says eating insects is healthy and good for the environment. (Kenosha News, December 2, 2018)

  • Ph.D. — Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.S. — Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • B.S. — Wildlife Ecology and Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

BIO 1110 Molecules, Cells, and Organisms
BIO 1120 Organisms, Populations, and Systems
BIO 2200 Introduction to Ecology
BIO 3320 Entomology
BIO 400A Vertebrate Ecology
BIO 4120 Senior Seminar
BIO 4900 Research in Biology

“The goal of my research is to explore the vocal and gestural communication systems of vertebrates by characterizing commonalities derived through evolution, comparing developmental differences within clades, and searching call sequences for the potential of linguistic structure. 

Prior to focusing my research on bioacoustics and animal behavior, I studied the population dynamics of white-tailed deer, gray wolves, Blanding’s turtles, painted turtles, snapping turtles, trumpeter swans, a variety of waterfowl, raptors and songbirds, porcupines, and central Wisconsin dragonflies. I have also examined the impact of temperature variation on the sex ratios of hatchling fresh-water river turtles in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil.”

Hylobatidae – Lesser apes

“The primary species I work with is the white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar). This species is native to Southeast Asia, it lives in female-led territorial groups and it primarily communicates by using a diverse set of vocalizations. To date, I have been able to identify and describe the vocal repertoire of this species, which consists of 27 statistically distinctive acoustic units. I have also been able to identify motivational and referential sequences of their predator warning calls. Current research efforts are focused on understanding great call and coda development between wild and captive populations.”

Canidae – Gray wolves

“In collaboration with the Timber Wolf Information Network, we are exploring the possibility of tracking gray wolves (Canis lupus), by recording their howls and then analyzing these calls to search for acoustic markers that can identify individuals.  To date, we have been able to cluster sets of howls accurately and our future challenges will include adding more individuals to our data set, tracking vocal changes over time, and correctly classifying unlabeled howls.”

Hominidae – Western lowland gorillas

“University of Mississippi Anthropology Professor Dr. Carolyn Freiwald and I are collaborating on a project to conduct the first formal study of lowland gorilla behavior at the Memphis Zoo. The goal of this research is to determine what the activity budgets are for each gorilla. To accomplish this, we are building an ethogram of various foraging, locomotor, and agonistic behaviors between the four gorillas currently housed there.”

Turtle Robots

“Vocal production in freshwater turtles is an emerging field of study.  Several species of turtles have already been recorded, vocal repertoires described and in the case of one species, maternal care has been associated with vocal interactivity with hatchlings. Current challenges include tracking hatchling turtles once they leave their nesting beach. Their small size makes radio transmitters prohibitive, but a turtle-tracking robot could follow a turtle and record the vocal interactivity between hatchlings. The main goal of this research is to build and deploy an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to track a hatchling turtle and record its’ vocal interactivity.”

Student Projects

“I advise students on undergraduate research related to each of my on-going projects. I am happy to speak with prospective students about their ideas and interests.”

Student Presentations

2018

  • Hull, Cara and McCombe, Caitlin. Vocal features used to determine individuality among wild gray wolves (Canis lupus). Celebration of Scholars Poster
  • Steffen, Alexandra. A study of foraging behavior in Western Lesser Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur occidentalis). Celebration of Scholars Poster
  • DeRoach, Olivia, Steffen, Alexandra and Yont, Ryan. An Examination of great call production between wild and captive White-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar). Celebration of Scholars Poster
  • McKinnon, Kathryn and Van Dame, Katherine. Activity budgets of lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at the Memphis Zoo. Celebration of Scholars Poster
  • Hull, Cara and McCombe, Caitlin. Acoustic Signatures as Aids in Monitoring Longevity in Wild Roaming Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). NCUR Poster

2017            

  • Hull, Cara and McCombe, Caitlin. Acoustic Signatures as Aids in Monitoring Longevity in Wild Roaming Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). Midstates Poster
  • Hull, Cara and McCombe, Caitlin. Acoustic Signatures as Aids in Identifying and Monitoring Longevity in Wild Roaming Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). SURE Poster
  • Steffen, Alexandra. Examining atypical vocal production of great calls and codas in white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar). Celebration of Scholars Poster

Angela Dassow

Professor Angela Dassow received her B.S. degrees in wildlife ecology and entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003. After spending several years as the head preparator and assistant curator of herpetology at a natural history museum, she joined Prof. Michael Coen’s lab and earned her M.S. in zoology in 2010 and Ph.D. in zoology in 2014. She joined the Carthage faculty in 2015.

Prof. Dassow’s research focuses on computational analyses of animal vocalizations, exploring correlates with human linguistic phenomena at the phonetic, morphological, and syntactic levels. This work has centered on understanding the vocal communication systems of wild and captive white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar); however, she has examined other species as well, ranging across a variety of taxa including cetaceans, bats, canids, and song birds. By combining aspects of ecology, linguistics, computer science, and information theory, we are able to gain new insights into the communicative abilities of white-handed gibbons and demonstrate previously unrecognized complexity and structure in their vocal communication system.

Media mentions:

Ape Conversations: Researchers Listen To, Analyze Gibbons At The Racine Zoo
Prof. Dassow researches the vocalizations of two whit-handed gibbons at the Racine Zoo. (WUWM 89.7, August 8, 2019)

Carthage team records sweet, yet secret language of gibbons
Prof.  Dassow and two students, Joy Layton and Azniv Khaligin, study the complex language of two gibbons at the Racine Zoo. (Kenosha News, July 2, 2019)

Carthage Researchers Study Gibbons to Understand How Vocal Evolution Led to Human Speech
Prof. Dassow along with students Azniv Khaligian and Joy Layton study the vocalizations of gibbons at the Racine Zoo. (Journal Sentinel, July 1, 2019)

What I Learned in Puerto Rico
Prof. Angela Dassow discusses her experiences in Puerto Rico during J-Term 2019. (Urban Milwaukee, April 3, 2019)

Women in science have made ground-breaking contributions
Prof. Dassow writes a compelling opinion editorial about Women in STEM and their powerful contributions to modern science. (Kenosha News, March 25, 2019)

Girls inspired by ‘Women in Science’ event
Prof. Dassow participates in Kenosha Public Museum event celebrating women in science. (Kenosha News, March 23, 2019)

Insects: A new source of protein coming to a supermarket near you
Prof. Angela Dassow says eating insects is healthy and good for the environment. (Kenosha News, December 2, 2018)

Brief Bio

Professor Angela Dassow has a B.S. in wildlife ecology and entomology, an M.S. in zoology, and a Ph.D. in zoology, all from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on computational analyses of animal vocalizations, exploring correlates within human linguistic phenomena at the phonetic, morphological, and syntactic levels.

Title

Assistant Professor of Biology

Email Address

adassow@carthage.edu

Phone Number

262-551-6244

Office Location

Straz Center 068

Education

  • Ph.D. — Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.S. — Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • B.S. — Wildlife Ecology and Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Courses

BIO 1110 Molecules, Cells, and Organisms
BIO 1120 Organisms, Populations, and Systems
BIO 2200 Introduction to Ecology
BIO 3320 Entomology
BIO 400A Vertebrate Ecology
BIO 4120 Senior Seminar
BIO 4900 Research in Biology

Research Interests

“The goal of my research is to explore the vocal and gestural communication systems of vertebrates by characterizing commonalities derived through evolution, comparing developmental differences within clades, and searching call sequences for the potential of linguistic structure. 

Prior to focusing my research on bioacoustics and animal behavior, I studied the population dynamics of white-tailed deer, gray wolves, Blanding’s turtles, painted turtles, snapping turtles, trumpeter swans, a variety of waterfowl, raptors and songbirds, porcupines, and central Wisconsin dragonflies. I have also examined the impact of temperature variation on the sex ratios of hatchling fresh-water river turtles in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil.”

Hylobatidae – Lesser apes

“The primary species I work with is the white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar). This species is native to Southeast Asia, it lives in female-led territorial groups and it primarily communicates by using a diverse set of vocalizations. To date, I have been able to identify and describe the vocal repertoire of this species, which consists of 27 statistically distinctive acoustic units. I have also been able to identify motivational and referential sequences of their predator warning calls. Current research efforts are focused on understanding great call and coda development between wild and captive populations.”

Canidae – Gray wolves

“In collaboration with the Timber Wolf Information Network, we are exploring the possibility of tracking gray wolves (Canis lupus), by recording their howls and then analyzing these calls to search for acoustic markers that can identify individuals.  To date, we have been able to cluster sets of howls accurately and our future challenges will include adding more individuals to our data set, tracking vocal changes over time, and correctly classifying unlabeled howls.”

Hominidae – Western lowland gorillas

“University of Mississippi Anthropology Professor Dr. Carolyn Freiwald and I are collaborating on a project to conduct the first formal study of lowland gorilla behavior at the Memphis Zoo. The goal of this research is to determine what the activity budgets are for each gorilla. To accomplish this, we are building an ethogram of various foraging, locomotor, and agonistic behaviors between the four gorillas currently housed there.”

Turtle Robots

“Vocal production in freshwater turtles is an emerging field of study.  Several species of turtles have already been recorded, vocal repertoires described and in the case of one species, maternal care has been associated with vocal interactivity with hatchlings. Current challenges include tracking hatchling turtles once they leave their nesting beach. Their small size makes radio transmitters prohibitive, but a turtle-tracking robot could follow a turtle and record the vocal interactivity between hatchlings. The main goal of this research is to build and deploy an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to track a hatchling turtle and record its’ vocal interactivity.”

Student Projects

“I advise students on undergraduate research related to each of my on-going projects. I am happy to speak with prospective students about their ideas and interests.”

Student Presentations

2018

  • Hull, Cara and McCombe, Caitlin. Vocal features used to determine individuality among wild gray wolves (Canis lupus). Celebration of Scholars Poster
  • Steffen, Alexandra. A study of foraging behavior in Western Lesser Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur occidentalis). Celebration of Scholars Poster
  • DeRoach, Olivia, Steffen, Alexandra and Yont, Ryan. An Examination of great call production between wild and captive White-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar). Celebration of Scholars Poster
  • McKinnon, Kathryn and Van Dame, Katherine. Activity budgets of lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at the Memphis Zoo. Celebration of Scholars Poster
  • Hull, Cara and McCombe, Caitlin. Acoustic Signatures as Aids in Monitoring Longevity in Wild Roaming Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). NCUR Poster

2017            

  • Hull, Cara and McCombe, Caitlin. Acoustic Signatures as Aids in Monitoring Longevity in Wild Roaming Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). Midstates Poster
  • Hull, Cara and McCombe, Caitlin. Acoustic Signatures as Aids in Identifying and Monitoring Longevity in Wild Roaming Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). SURE Poster
  • Steffen, Alexandra. Examining atypical vocal production of great calls and codas in white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar). Celebration of Scholars Poster
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