Congratulations to Ph.D. candidate Brandon Guell for receiving the Belamarich Dissertation Writing Award. This award supports outstanding Ph.D. students through their dissertation writing stage. 

Brandon is a Costa Rican-American NSF Pre-doctoral Research Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at Boston University studying the reproductiv

e and behavioral ecology of gliding tree frogs, Agalychnis spurrelli, for his Ph.D. dissertation research. His research focuses on explosive breeding and its consequences for critical adult and embryo behaviors in gliding treefrogs. He received his B.S. from UC San Diego. He collaborated with NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Lab to study northern fur seal pups’ foraging ecology and behavior on the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. 

His passion for wildlife, conservation, and animal behavior began very young, primarily due to traveling throughout Costa Rica with his family as a child. His interest in wildlife photography developed at the start of his Ph.D., initially from using it as a tool to study animal behavior in the field. Now, he aims to use photography not only to communicate science but also to help inspire a passion for wildlife and create advocacy for conservation.

“I consider myself a field biologist and a behavioral ecologist. That means I’m interesting in understanding how organisms interact with each other and their environment from a behavioral perspective.”

Brandon’s Ph.D. research focuses on understanding explosive breeding and its consequences for critical adult and embryo behaviors in gliding treefrogs (Agalychnis spurrelli). Gliding treefrogs reproduce during significant explosive-breeding events where hundreds to thousands of adults aggregate on vegetation overhanging forest ponds in Central and South America. However, natural history information on A. spurrelli reproduction is limited; much of it is anecdotal or based on untested hypotheses. The first part of his dissertation addresses the gap in knowledge by examining the reproductive ecology of explosive breeding and its consequences for adult behavior in A. spurrelli. The second part of his dissertation assesses the effects of A. spurrelli’s reproductive phenology on embryo behavior. It tests two hypotheses about why their embryos show lower escape-hatching success to snakes than their close relative, A. callidryas. 

Brandon hopes to improve the understanding of the reproductive ecology of gliding treefrogs and the factors contributing to their low rates of escape-hatching success in snake attacks. His work also has broader implications for understanding how breeding patterns and mating strategies affect behavior at multiple life stages.

Congratulations Brandon!