I earned my B.S. in field and wildlife biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2013. After graduation, I worked for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the National Marine Fisheries Service in the respective fields of deep sea and anadromous fish ecology. In fall 2015, I enrolled in the Biology PhD program at Stanford University where my research utilizes in situ footage, scientific surveys, animal-borne data loggers, oceanographic data and molecular techniques to understand the migratory behaviors of ecologically and economically important Pacific squids and the environmental drivers and impacts of these movements.

Professional Affiliations and Activities

  • Collaborator, National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center (2016 - Present)
  • Collaborator, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (2015 - Present)

Education & Certifications

  • B.S., California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, Biology (2013)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

For my PhD research, I utilize in situ footage, comparative respirometry, scientific surveys, animal-borne data loggers, and oceanographic data to understand the competitive ability of ecologically-similar social squid and fish in an environmental context.

Research Projects

  • Humboldt squid utilize visual behaviors for communication in the mesopelagic (Scholarly Concentration Project)

    Several species of squid inhabiting the mesopelagic zone of the deep sea demonstrate repertoires of visual behaviors comparable to or exceeding those performed by their shallow-water counterparts. However, it largely remains unknown for what the deep-water species, which spend the majority of their lives in a dimly-lit or totally dark environment, use their remarkable visual displays. Using in situ footage of the large, voracious, group-forming Humboldt squid, Dosidicus gigas, collected by Remotely Operated Vehicles in the mesopelagic of the California Current System, we documented D. gigas displaying predictable sets of postural, chromatic, and locomotor behaviors almost exclusively when foraging and in the presence of high conspecific densities, respectively. Thus, inter- and intraspecific communication appear to have encouraged the evolution of diverse behaviors in a squid species which spends its entire life in an environment almost totally devoid of irradiance.

    Time Period

    June 2014 - Present


    Monterey Bay, CA




    • Bruce Robison, Senior Scientist, MBARI

All Publications

  • Bioluminescent backlighting illuminates the complex visual signals of a social squid in the deep sea. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Burford, B. P., Robison, B. H. 2020


    Visual signals rapidly relay information, facilitating behaviors and ecological interactions that shape ecosystems. However, most known signaling systems can be restricted by low light levels-a pervasive condition in the deep ocean, the largest inhabitable space on the planet. Resident visually cued animals have therefore been hypothesized to have simple signals with limited information-carrying capacity. We used cameras mounted on remotely operated vehicles to study the behavior of the Humboldt squid, Dosidicus gigas, in its natural deep-sea habitat. We show that specific pigmentation patterns from its diverse repertoire are selectively displayed during foraging and in social scenarios, and we investigate how these behaviors may be used syntactically for communication. We additionally identify the probable mechanism by which D. gigas, and related squids, illuminate these patterns to create visual signals that can be readily perceived in the deep, dark ocean. Numerous small subcutaneous (s.c.) photophores (bioluminescent organs) embedded throughout the muscle tissue make the entire body glow, thereby backlighting the pigmentation patterns. Equipped with a mechanism by which complex information can be rapidly relayed through a visual pathway under low-light conditions, our data suggest that the visual signals displayed by D. gigas could share design features with advanced forms of animal communication. Visual signaling by deep-living cephalopods will likely be critical in understanding how, and how much, information can be shared in one of the planet's most challenging environments for visual communication.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1920875117

    View details for PubMedID 32205436

  • Grouping reduces the metabolic demand of a social squid Marine Ecology Progress Series Burford, B. P., Carey, N., Gilly, W. F., Goldbogen, J. A. 2019; 612: 141-150

    View details for DOI 10.3354/meps12880

  • Foraging behavior and locomotion of the invasive Argentine ant from winter aggregations. PloS one Burford, B. P., Lee, G., Friedman, D. A., Brachmann, E., Khan, R., MacArthur-Waltz, D. J., McCarty, A. D., Gordon, D. M. 2018; 13 (8): e0202117


    The collective behavior of ant colonies, and locomotion of individuals within a colony, both respond to changing conditions. The invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) thrives in Mediterranean climates with hot, dry summers and colder, wet winters. However, its foraging behavior and locomotion has rarely been studied in the winter. We examined how the foraging behavior of three distinct L. humile colonies was related to environmental conditions and the locomotion of workers during winter in northern California. We found that colonies foraged most between 10 and 15°C, regardless of the maximum daily temperature. Worker walking speed was positively associated with temperature (range 6-24°C) and negatively associated with humidity (range 25-93%RH). All colonies foraged during all day and night hours in a predictable daily cycle, with a correlation between the rate of incoming and outgoing foragers. Foraging activity was unrelated to the activity of a competing native ant species, Prenolepis imparis, which was present in low abundance, and ceased only during heavy rain when ants left foraging trails and aggregated in small sheltered areas on trees.

    View details for PubMedID 30092038

  • Pelagic shrimp play dead in deep oxygen minima. PloS one Burford, B. P., Schlining, K. L., Reisenbichler, K. R., Robison, B. H. 2018; 13 (11): e0207249


    Pelagic crustaceans are arguably the most abundant group of metazoans on Earth, yet little is known about their natural behavior. The deep pelagic shrimp Hymenopenaeus doris is a common decapod that thrives in low oxygen layers of the eastern Pacific Ocean. When first observed in situ using a remotely operated vehicle, most specimens of H. doris appeared dead due to inactivity and inverted orientation. Closer inspection revealed that these animals were utilizing small, subtle shifts in appendage position to control their orientation and sink rate. In this mode, they resembled molted shrimp exoskeletons. We hypothesize that these shrimp may avoid capture by visually-cued predators with this characteristic behavior. The low metabolic rates of H. doris (0.55-0.81 mg O2 kg-1 min-1) are similar to other deep-living shrimp, and also align with their high hypoxia tolerance and reduced activity. We observed similar behavior in another deep pelagic decapod, Petalidium suspiriosum, which transiently inhabited Monterey Canyon, California, during a period of anomalously warm ocean conditions.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0207249

    View details for PubMedID 30485334

  • Behaviour and mimicry in the juvenile and subadult life stages of the mesopelagic squid Chiroteuthis calyx Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom Burford, B. P., Robison, B. H., Sherlock , R. E. 2015; 95 (06)