Research

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in understanding how species respond to their environment in regards to physiology, behavior, and demography. I am particularly interested in integrative and multi-scale approaches to research. By bringing together data about organismal, within-population, and among-population processes, we can gain insights about how the relationships and patterns in one level link to and explain variability in another. Currently I am applying these approaches to how salamanders might persist under future climate conditions.

Dissertation Research

Yes, sometimes your study organism can be so inspiring, it must be put on a jack-o-lantern.

Yes, sometimes your study organism can be so inspiring, it must be put on a jack-o-lantern.

For my Ph.D. I work as Network Coordinator for the Salamander Population and Adaptation Research Collaboration Network (SPARCnet). The network uses the red-backed salamander, Plethodon cinereus, as a model organism to understand how amphibians and other dispersal-limited species might adapt to climate change. Combining observational and experimental climate-manipulation methods with mark-recapture population monitoring, SPARCnet allows us to investigate a variety of environment-mediated responses across multiple populations throughout the species’ range: fitness (e.g. survival, individual growth), behavior (e.g. surface-use), and life-history (e.g. size at reproductive maturity).

To broaden my expertise, I have also added a physiology component to the SPARCnet field data we are collecting.  Our correlative and experimental field data does not provide a mechanistic understanding of the patterns we are finding. To link field responses to a mechanism, I am using respirometry to characterize metabolic rate under different temperatures and acclimation regimes.  This allows us to better understand maintenance energy costs under different conditions and whether salamander have any ability to control their metabolic costs under different conditions. Both are crucial pieces to understanding how climate change may impact P. cinereus and how much capacity the species has to adapt to environmental demands.

Other Projects

Impacts of Land-use on Mourning Dove Recruitment
Since the 1960s, mourning dove populations have been declining in the western and central management units, whereas in the eastern management unit, populations have been increasing. These trends have occurred simultaneously with large- scale shifts in agricultural practices and urbanization. David Miller and I are characterizing large-scale patterns in annual recruitment across the species’ range and assessing how land-use factors explain variation in local recruitment. We use 3 data sets to estimate patterns: data on age ratios from >135,000 wings collected from hunters from 2009-2014, annual agricultural crop data (National Cropland Data Layer), and land cover data (National Land Cover Database). We estimate patterns and drivers of recruitment using a hierarchical, conditional auto-regressive model fit within a Bayesian framework.

Applying Spatial Capture-Recapture methods to estimate population density of multiple sympatric carnivores
My role in this research was to conduct spatial capture-recapture analyses for seven carnivore species in Botswana. Lindsey Rich, who conducted the research, developed a novel survey design to simultaneously survey for multiple carnivore species. Using the data collected, I worked with Lindsey and David Miller to estimate density using spatial capture-recapture and spatial mark-resight models developed by Murray Efford.

Past Research

Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene carolina carolina Ecology
Back at Elon, I worked closely with Josh Kapfer to conduct radio telemetry on box turtles at three different locations. The goal was to understand what habitats the turtles selected for at these sites. We also conducted mark-recapture to estimate population sizes. With the help of Turtle Detecting Dogs, we estimated population size at one of the three sites. This project was my first introduction to population estimation, and it also gave me my love for telemetry, which I consider scientific treasure hunting.

Mammal Community Responses to Human-Scent at Camera Trapping locations
This project was my undergraduate research thesis as part of the Elon Honors Program. For a year I followed a meticulous camera-trapping protocol to test whether mammals responded to human-scent being present at a camera trap location. This project taught me important lessons about experimental design and how to take a project from its very inception to getting it published

Terrestrial vertebrate diversity at Elon University Forest
Once again with Josh Kapfer, this project broadly trained me in multiple survey techniques and showed me how scientists might think about characterizing species diversity. Here we looked at inventorying mammals, both small and large, reptiles, and amphibians.

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