Dr. Sarah A. Stamper, Ph.D.

Visiting Scientist
Dept. Mechanical Engineering
E-mail: sstamper (at) jhu.edu
Google Scholar Profile

Current position 

Research Interests

A hidden world of sensory signals and behavior lies beyond human perceptual capabilities. Flying bats capture insects within vegetation in complete darkness using sounds that are well beyond the range of human hearing. Hundreds of species of fish use electricity as a mechanism for sensing and communicating. Beginning with my undergraduate studies, I have focused my research efforts on understanding these sorts of ‘exotic’ model systems, including studying active touch in manatees, echolocation in bats, and electroreception in weakly electric fish.

My approach involves the quantitative analysis of animal behavior in experimental paradigms designed to complement physiological recordings that reveal the underlying neural mechanisms. My research addresses two main questions: (1) how an animal’s movement influences incoming sensory information and (2) how animals sense in the presence of conspecifics that are also generating sensory signals that may have overlapping spatiotemporal characteristics. The methods used in my research include fieldwork, well-controlled behavioral laboratory experiments and electrophysiological recordings in awake-behaving animals.


  1. Uyanik, I. Sefati, S., Stamper, S.A., Cho, K., Ankarali, M.M., Fortune, E.S., & Cowan, N.J. (2019) Variability in locomotor dynamics reveals the critical role of feedback in task control. eLife, 9:51219.
  2. Stamper, S.A., Madhav, M.S., Cowan, N.J., & Fortune, E.S. (2019) Using control theory to characterize active sensing in weakly electric fishes. In Carlson, B.A., et. al (Eds.), Electroreception: Fundamental Insights from Comparative Approaches. 227-249.
  3. Uyanik, I., Stamper, S.A., Cowan, N.J., & Fortune, E.S. (2019) Sensory Cues Modulate Smooth Pursuit and Active Sensing Movements. Front Behav Neurosci, 13:59.
  4. Biswas, D., Arend, L.A. Stamper, S.A., Vágvölgyi, B.P., Fortune, E.S., & Cowan, N.J.(2018) Closed-Loop Control of Active Sensing Movements Regulates Sensory Slip. Curr Biol, 28:4029-4036.
  5. Madhav, M.S., Jayakumar, R.P., Demir, A., Stamper, S.A., Fortune, E.S., & Cowan, N.J. (2018) High-resolution behavioral mapping of electric fishes in Amazonian habitats. Sci Rep, 8:5830.
  6. Sutton, E.E., Demir, A. Stamper, S.A., Fortune, E.S., & Cowan, N.J. (2016) Dynamic modulation of visual and electrosensory gains for locomotor control. J R Soc Interface, 118:20160057.
  7. Cowan, N.J., Ankarali, M.M., Dyhr, J.P., Madhav, M.S., Roth, E., Sefati, S., Sponberg, S., Stamper, S.A., Fortune, E.S., & Daniel, T.L. (2014) Feedback control as a framework for understanding tradeoffs in biology. Integr Comp Biol, 54:223-37.
  8. Madhav, M.S., Stamper, S.A., Fortune, E.S., & Cowan, N.J. (2013) Closed-loop stabilization of the Jamming Avoidance Response reveals its locally unstable and globally nonlinear dynamics. J Exp Biol, 216:4272-4284.
  9. Stamper, S.A., Fortune, E.S., & Chacron, M.J. (2013) Perception and coding of envelopes in weakly electric fishes. J Exp Biol, 216:2393-2402.
  10. Fellner, W., Bauer, G.B., Stamper, S.A., Losch, B. & Dahood, A. (2013) The development of synchronous movement by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Mar Mammal Sci, 29:E203-E225.
  11. Stamper, S.A.*, Madhav, M.S.*, Cowan, N.J., & Fortune, E.S. (2012) Beyond the Jamming Avoidance Response: Weakly electric fish respond to the envelope of electrosensory stimuli. J Exp Biol, 215:4196-4207. (*authors contributed equally). Article covered by Inside JEB and placed in the Top 8 Most Outstanding JEB Papers 2012. Also covered by CBC’s Quirks and Quarks.
  12. Stamper, S.A., Roth, E. Cowan, N.J., & Fortune, E.S. (2012) Active sensing via movement shapes spatiotemporal patterns of sensory feedback. J Exp Biol, 215:1567-1574.
  13. Bauer, G.B., Gaspard, J.C., Colbert, D.E., Leach, J.B., Stamper, S.A., Mann, D.A., & Reep, R.L. (2012). Tactile discrimination of textures by Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) Mar Mammal Sci. 28:E456-E471.
  14. Roth, E., Zhuang, K., Stamper, S.A., Fortune, E.S. and Cowan, N.J. (2011) Stimulus Predictability Mediates a Switch in Locomotor Smooth Pursuit Performance for Eigenmannia virescens. J Exp Biol, 214:1170-1180.
  15. Stamper, S.A., G-Carrera, E., Tan, E.W., Fugere, V., Krahe, R., & Fortune, E.S. (2010) Species differences in group size and electrosensory interference in weakly electric fishes: Implications for electrosensory processing. Brain Beh Res 207:368-376.
  16. Hitschfeld, E., Stamper, S.A., Vonderschen, K., Fortune, E.S., & Chacron, M.J. (2009). Effects of restraint and immobilization on the electrical behaviors of weakly electric fish. ILAR J 50: 361-372.
  17. Stamper, S.A., Bates, M.E., Benedicto, D., & Simmons, J.A. (2009). Role of broadcast harmonics in echo delay perception by big brown bats. J Comp Physiol A 195:79-89.
  18. Hiryu, S., Shimamoto, H., Bates, M., Stamper, S.A., Simmons, J. A., and Riquimaroux, H. (2008) Jamming avoidance strategy for temporal overlap of own reverberant echoes by FM echolocating bats (Eptesicus fuscus) during flight, revealed by telemetry sound recording. The Acoustical Society of Japan, Trans. Tech. Comm. Psychol. Physiol. Acoust., 38, 221-226.
  19. Stamper, S.A., Simmons, J.A., DeLong, C.M., & Bragg, R. (2008). Detection of targets co-localized in clutter by echolocating big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). J Acoust Soc Am 124:667-673.
  20. Bates, M.E., Stamper, S.A., & Simmons, J.A. (2008). Jamming avoidance response of big brown bats in target detection. J Exp Biol 211:106-113
  21. Horowitz, S.S., Stamper, S.A., & Simmons, J.A. (2008). Connexin expression in the cochlear nucleus of echolocating big brown bats. Brain Res 1197:76-84.
  22. DeLong, C.M., Au, W. W., & Stamper, S.A. (2007). Echoic cues used by human listeners to discriminate among objects that vary in material or structure: Implications for echolocating dolphins. J Acoust Soc Am 121:605-617.