B.S. Biology, Christopher Newport University, 2010
Minor: Leadership Studies
My research interests are broad within biology including topics relating to evolution, ecology, and conservation. Although I try not to be taxon-specific, I have always loved working with birds. I am currently most interested in the interface of evolutionary biology and conservation: using what we know about how evolution works to more accurately manage for the preservation of biodiversity.
My current thesis research applies an evolutionary perspective to the conservation issue of environmental contamination. Mercury is a ubiquitous ecotoxin with numerous detrimental effects on wildlife. Ecotoxicology, however, largely ignores the possibility of adaptive response to environmental contaminants. As part of an ongoing investigation into the sublethal effects of mercury on captive-dosed birds, I am currently modeling patterns mercury accumulation in zebra finches and using a quantitative genetics approach to investigate the possibility of a heritable response to mercury accumulation. Heritable among-individual differences in mercury accumulation may underlie a genetic basis for mercury mitigation, potentially allowing evolutionary adaptation to environmental mercury contamination. This research could have significant consequences for the ways in which we predict mercury biomagnification and manage wildlife in contaminated areas.