Nathan Putman
Senior Scientist
  • Ph.D.: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (Biology) 2011
  • B.S. summa cum laude: University of Alabama (Marine Science; Biology) 2006
As global climate continues to change and as humans further modify habitats, there is growing need to predict long‑term trends in animal movements, distribution, and connectivity among ecosystems. Dr. Nathan Putman’s goal is to generate the information necessary to estimate how these activities will affect marine species of commercial conservation importance. His work examines behavioral responses to changing environmental conditions to predict spatial and temporal variation in the distributions of marine and aquatic organisms through simulations of individual movements within realistic environmental models. An emergent property of this modelling is a mechanistic prediction of a population’s distribution and its variability through time. By explicitly considering the interaction between the animal and environment (mediated by sensory processing and behavior), this approach is more sensitive than traditional modelling/mapping techniques to predict shifts in distribution and abundance in response to changing environmental conditions.

Some of Dr. Putman’s notable accomplishments include: demonstrating that hatchling sea turtles can extract longitudinal position from the geomagnetic field (the first demonstration of how any non‑human animal perceives longitude), unequivocally showing that sea turtles, salmonids, and European eels assess their position using bicoordinate information from the geomagnetic field, showing that variation in migratory routes of salmon homing from the open sea is predicted by geomagnetic drift, showing that spatial variation in sea turtle nest abundance is determined by how well nearby ocean currents facilitate hatchling transport to nursery grounds (the first explanation for regional variation in sea turtle nest abundance), generating the first quantitative predictions of the distribution of oceanic‑stage sea turtles throughout their range, and using drifter/telemetry experiments to show that juvenile sea turtles engage in oriented swimming in the open sea (resolving the decades‑long “passive vs. active migration” debate).

Publications: link to Google Scholar profile.