Advisor(s): Andrew Elmore and Bill Dennison
Next Generation: Dylan Taillie
What is the focus of your research?
I am creating a species distribution model for a couple of different species of birds within and surrounding the C&O Canal National Park. My model is trying to understand how changes in forest configuration and land cover would affect the distribution of sensitive bird species like the cerulean warbler, golden winged-warbler, and wood thrush. The model incorporates forest characteristics such as canopy height and structure to see how predicted bird distribution may change both within the park and its surrounding areas when I simulate forest and landscape changes.
How will it make a difference?
I hope to help inform resource managers on decisions regarding land protection and forest management. This will ultimately help both the C&O Canal and their partner organizations use their money more efficiently. Beyond management implications, the model we are creating incorporates landscape and forest metrics that hopefully will be interesting in the field of landscape ecology. It will tick the boxes for being a scientifically rigorous study that adds to the field and a valuable tool for managers.
What influenced your career path in science?
I was studying economics in my undergraduate degree when I went on a spring break trip that was funded by my university. We removed invasive plant species in Austin, Texas, and I found it to be a super cool and rewarding experience. The park rangers sparked my interest in the environment, so I decided to change my major to environmental studies and was really excited about it. I hadn’t embraced the idea that what I do in my free time is what I could have as my career path, and it clicked on that trip.
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I was looking for jobs close to home in Maryland, and I started working for Bill Dennison, the head of UMCES’ Integration and Application Network (IAN). I would be remiss to say that Bill didn’t influence my science career because he gave me the opportunity to explore what I want to do and how I want to make an impact in science. At the same time he gave me space to explore, he encouraged me to be rigorous in my communication and science visualization routine.
Why did you choose to study with your mentor at UMCES?
Andrew Elmore is doing really cool work with remote sensing of habitat and using new tools to capture the complexity of our ecosystems in his science, which is what made me reach out to him. Bill Dennison is a science communication guru and is very outspoken about applied environmental science and using science for good, informed management decision making, which is right up my alley. They are both awesome scientists.
What is an experience that stands out most to you about your time at UMCES?
Being able to interact with different scientists at all of the UMCES labs has definitely been great. While I was at IAN, I was able to help with the Chesapeake Bay Report Card, which was a great experience. The outpouring of support, whether it was a good or a bad score, was very inspiring. UMCES in general is a cast of pretty awesome researchers. I had the opportunity to volunteer at the sturgeon hatchery at the Horn Point Laboratory with Louis Plough and learn about the really cool science he does. I was also able to help Judy O’Neil with some of her research projects that involved going out on oceanographic cruises on the R.V. Rachel Carson, which showed me how to organize and execute a research cruise. UMCES has incredible variety and depth in researcher interests and expertise. Anywhere you look there is someone very smart and driven that a potential student can learn tons from.
What is the most important thing people can do to help the environment?
I would say drive less, fly less where you can, and try to avoid single-use plastics.
Do you have advice for kids in the next generation who are interested in STEM fields?
Don’t let those first classes with 300 people in a lecture hall get you down about the field because the real cool stuff comes when you start working in a lab and doing specific research. That is where you can get really excited about it. Also, just go outside more.
When do you anticipate earning your degree?
Spring of 2020.
What are your future plans?
Whether it is working for an NGO, the federal government, or a state agency, being able to assist in the decision-making role, where I get to help direct management decisions, is a goal of mine.