Degree Pursuing: I am currently a PhD Candidate in the interdisciplinary Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program (https://eeb.iastate.edu/) under Dr. Julie Blanchong (https://www.sites.google.com/site/blanchonglabpage/).
Professional Activities: I am currently an NREM Senator serving on the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (http://www.gpss.iastate.edu/index.php). I am also a Graduate Teaching Fellow participating in the Biology Teaching Assistant Learning Community and was awarded a Teaching As Research grant from CIRTL to conduct research on attitudes of different cohorts of students regarding critical thinking and technical writing assignments in scientific laboratory courses (https://www.cirtl.net/tarprojects).
Since 2012, I have participated as an Editor and former Editor-In-Chief of Field Notes, a graduate-student produced NREM publication (http://www.nrem.iastate.edu/fieldnotes). Field Notes is used to convey information about research being conducted by NREM graduate students to a lay audience, and plays an important educational role by teaching people about natural resource conservation and management issues and scientific research being conducted to address such issues. I was a member of the 2013-2014 inaugural cohort of the Graduate College Emerging Leaders Academy (http://www.grad-college.iastate.edu/current/professional_development/writing_seminars/leaders_academy.php). In Spring 2012, I was an NREM delegate to Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow (https://clft.org/), which is a workshop designed to train future leaders in widlife conservation efforts.
Career Goal: My ultimate goals are to inspire students to pursue careers in the STEM fields by teaching science at a college level, become an expert in my field combining wildlife disease ecology and population genetics, and to effectively communicate with general audiences about science and scientific findings. This will, without a doubt, include my continued work with undergraduate and graduate students conducting original research, advising students, educating the public, and being an integral part of initiatives to encourage and support women pursuing careers in the STEM disciplines.
Background: Over the past 13 years, I have focused on gaining a broad range of scientific experiences, including both laboratory-based research and field work, while employed as a research assistant or research technician. I conducted field research on snake physiological ecology (published in Copeia) and field and laboratory research on urban rat ecology and disease (published in Molecular Ecology and PLoS ONE, in review in Behavioral Ecology) and black bears (published in the Journal of Mammalogy). I possess an avid interest in wildlife and domestic animal diseases, and have conducted research on several diseases, including hantavirus in urban rat populations, a herpesvirus in chickens, and a skin disease of Quarter horses. Since 2004 (and currently), I have mentored research projects of five undergraduate students, one graduate student, and one high school student and have supervised four student employees and volunteers during my tenure at three different institutions.
Additionally, since 2003, I have taught courses to undergraduates, including Vertebrate Biology Laboratory, General Ecology Laboratory, Human Physiology Laboratory, and Introduction to Biology Laboratory. I am currently employed as a teaching assistant for an upper-level undergraduate Microbiology Laboratory course (MICRO 440) that I helped develop the fall semester of 2014.
Project Title: Genetic analysis of white-tailed deer population structure in Iowa: identifying potential patterns and rates of disease spread.
My dissertation research uses population genetics to examine levels of genetic similarity between white-tailed deer in different areas in order to provide valuable information on the degree of connectivity between deer populations within Iowa and throughout the Midwest. Developing an understanding of levels of connectivity between deer populations can provide insight into potential distances and directions of the spread of deer diseases, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD). Deer social structure may influence the maintenance and spread of CWD, an untreatable, fatal disease transmitted via direct contact of deer with other infected deer or with a contaminated environment. I am estimating levels of relatedness between pairs of deer and comparing genetic similarity to identify whether population factors such as density influence structure of female social groups, which can contribute to local disease maintenance. I am also exploring which factors, such as land cover, influence the dispersal of male deer and thus potential for geographic spread of directly-transmitted diseases. I am also investigating the degree of connectivity between captive and surrounding free-ranging deer to understand potential for disease spread. I am also determining levels of genetic similarity between urban and rural deer populations to infer how much movement occurs between them in order to inform spatial scale of urban deer population management. Finally, I am investigating relationships between disease prevalence, immunity and phenotype in male white-tailed deer in order to understand individual variation in disease susceptibility. In addition to my dissertation research, I am developing a model of disease transmission of CWD across the Midwest and within Iowa based on the results of my dissertation research in order to complete my GIS certificate at ISU.
Past Research Projects Include:
1) Examining the differences in attitudes of upper-level Microbiology students towards critical thinking and technical writing assignments in a newly-designed Medical Microbiology laboratory course based on their post-undergraduate career goals.
2) Spatial clustering patterns of deer-vehicle collisions in Iowa counties and their associations with landscape and road characteristics using GIS.
3) Spatial statistical analyses to identify patterns of clustering in potentially West Nile Vrus-infected bird species trapped in and around Ames, Iowa, using GIS.
4) Examining the response of equine fibroblast and chondrocyte cell lines from horses with Hereditary Equine Dermal Aesthenia (HERDA) to different neutraceutical agents possessing anti-inflammatory properties.
5) Genetically characterizing populations of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) residing in inner-city alleys of Baltimore, MD, including levels of variation, diversity, and gene flow within the city.
6) Genetically characterizing a population of black bears (Ursus americanus) recolonizing southeastern Oklahoma and providing a preliminary population density estimate based upon non-invasive DNA sampling.
7) Spatial statistical analyses to identify patterns of a recolonizing black bear population in Oklahoma.
8) Using temperature-sensitive radiotelemetry to track and record hourly body temperatures of individual gravid and non-gravid Timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) to explore the relationship between reproductive condition and body temperature profiles.
9) Mapping individual black bear (Ursus americanus) movement and estimated Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) homeranges using GIS software.
10) Performing multivariate statistical analysis to predict presence or absence of species of Coleopteran beetles in an agroecosystem metapopulation and to predict presence or absence of species of rodents in rural versus urban habitats.
11) Creating a recombinant DNA plasmid vector incorporating a specific gene (ICP-27) for Marek’s Disease Virus (MDV; a herpesvirus of chickens) in concert with an Internal Ribosomal Entry Site and a jellyfish green fluorescent protein to be used in research including transfection of mutational strains into poultry.