I have a long-standing interest in birds, reptiles and amphibians. I've done basic undergraduate research on birds and herps in a variety of ecosystems (e.g., the Mohave Desert, marine and coastal aquatic habitats in California, and tropical forest environments in Costa Rica), and I am skilled in a variety of sampling techniques. I also worked as a field assistant for two graduate students conducting research on the effects of an invasive competitor species (bullfrog) and two parasitic species (chytrid and trematode) on the survival rates of the threatened California red-legged frog. In collaboration with a student partner, I expanded on the parameters of the original project by conducting independent research on the trematode life stage which precedes amphibian infection.
After completing my undergraduate studies, I sought an opportunity to work on a longer term, conservation-oriented research project in the tropics. I was hired as a student researcher for a NSF-funded project in Costa Rica analyzing the role of bird and bat seed-dispersal on tropical forest recovery in early succession habitats. In addition to conducting the primary research, I conducted independent research on bird species-specific seed consumption patterns, to further inform an ecological analysis of forest recovery potential.
While my interest in biology is grounded in my interest in and commitment to conservation, I became really interested in phylogenetics and comparative methods when working on my senior thesis. The larger project (of which my thesis was a part) was the design and compilation of a database of life history traits for 330 seabirds with the Island Conservation Project. The purpose of the larger project was to provide a comprehensive database of the life histories of seabirds worldwide to inform researchers, resource managers, and policy makers.
My senior thesis addressed the importance of controlling for phylogeny in the study of seabird breeding biology. This work piqued my interest in further resolving existing phylogenies (while providing me with an opportunity to learn and utilize the PDAP module in MESQUITE to run regressions). Since then, I've realized that researchers are increasingly using systematics data to more effectively address questions in conservation biology, e.g., in biodiversity, population genetics, and speciation (especially in rare or threatened taxa). For me, systematics work is an appealing combination of field work, lab work, and intellectual work, with the potential to contribute really useful information to conservation efforts.