The PhD Student

If I had to describe my academic self in a succinct sentence, I would go with “a well-traveled, well-versed herpetologist and first-generation PhD student from a small town in NW Indiana”. I say “well-versed” because throughout my research experiences, I’ve jumped from amphibian behavioral ecology to international research on gecko thermal physiology and then back to amphibian disease. To be honest, amphibian disease and ecotox research has topped my list from a young age but the pool of programs and labs that cater to this are much too small and funding tight.

I found my way by adding “tools to my toolbox”, as an advisor once referred to it, to make myself more competitive. Most of these tools go on my C.V., but some are just great life skills to have: impressive agility in chest waders, confidence I can dominate anyone in hand-capturing frogs, and convincing foreign customs officers that my research equipment is not a bomb. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. I knew early on that I wanted to be a part of herpetological conservation but hardly knew what road I should take. Yet, I’ve made it this far, so I must be doing something right. For that reason, I like advising others (especially those that may have a similar starting point) on their journey through academia.

I received my B.S. from Grand Valley State University just outside Grand Rapids, MI where I was involved in programs that promoted undergraduate research and advancement through the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program and the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. Projects included assessing golf course habitat suitability for amphibian populations and the association of habitat quality with territorial behavior in Green frogs (L. clamitans).

While obtaining my M.S. from Cal State University-Northridge, just outside of Los Angeles, CA, I gained a lot of experience with international research and science education. My thesis work characterized the thermal niche of Homonota darwinii, the world’s southernmost gecko. This work brought me to Argentina for two field seasons where I carried out all of my experiments. I also had the opportunity to be a graduate assistant for 7-weeks in Ecuador and the Galápagos as part of a Tropical Ecology and Conservation Program through CSUN.

My interests are in herpetological conservation generally with a specific interest in host-pathogen interactions of amphibians and the effects of contaminants on development. Currently, as a fairly new Ph.D. student at The University of Memphis, I’m focusing my research efforts (i.e., grant writing) on the use of agricultural pesticides as a disease mitigation strategy against the emerging amphibian fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

Looking forward to sharing my thoughts, experiences, mishaps, and triumphs with everyone.


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