Jim Benedix is a behavioral ecologist. He and his students conduct research on the behavior of frogs and crickets.
During summer 2011, Professor Benedix and his three research students, Ashley Conard ’14, Stephen Hesterberg ’13, and Luke Miller ’14 designed an experiment to study the falling behavior of frogs, a behavior that is referred to as “parachuting.” Professor Benedix says, “There are times when weather conditions are right, and frogs are heading to the pond in such a hurry, that they literally are jumping out of trees. There should be adaptations for allowing the frog to jump out of trees and not die when they land on the ground.” Benedix explains that if you think of gravity as being like a gas pedal, the frogs that are good parachuters have their foot off the gas more than the ones who are bad parachuters and have their foot to the floor.
Professor Benedix and the students constructed a 12-foot high wall, painted it like a ruler, and added a wading pool at the bottom so the frogs had a soft place to land. They set up two video cameras and videotaped the parachuting frogs from the side and from the top. They found that the parachuting frogs threw their arms out to the side to slow down. Tree-dwelling frogs were better at slowing themselves down than ground-dwelling frogs.
Pictured above from left to right are Stephen Hesterberg ’13, Professor Jim Benedix, Ashley Conard ’14 and Luke Miller ’14.
Professor Benedix teaches courses in ecology and evolution. Among the courses he teaches are: Bio 145, Ecology and Evolution; Bio 342, Ecology; and Bio 348, Behavioral Ecology.