PhD Student, Princeton University
I grew up around Boston and New York and completed my undergraduate degree in biology and environmental studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. I worked on wetland restoration for the Nature Conservancy and got a master’s degree in tropical ecology and conservation while I was a Fulbright Scholar and developing a love for all things amphibian at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. In the year before starting my PhD, I helped design and manage wetland and grassland restoration at Archbold Biological Station in central Florida.
My PhD supervisor, Rob Pringle, told me about the restoration project and brought me for a short visit in 2012, just before I began my PhD at Princeton. On that trip, I got a first look at the restoration project and the tremendous ecosystem that is Gorongosa. I discussed possible research directions with Marc Stalmans, Pedro Muagura, and Greg Carr, and returned in 2013, for my first full field season.
I study how the mammal declines, and now recovery, in Gorongosa affect the park’s terrestrial and aquatic savanna habitats. Gorongosa’s “pans,” or seasonal ponds, are miniature ecosystems that attract mammals searching for water, and lions looking for prey. Pans also support over 90 species of frogs, fishes, and aquatic plants. I’m interested in how nutrients in dung from mammals using the pans might be used by the aquatic critters, and in how the presence of a pan affects the terrestrial savanna around it. I also study how elephants, buffalo, and antelopes help shape the Gorongosa’s savanna and forest tree communities by knocking over and consuming trees and their seeds.
There are few places that rival Gorongosa’s combination of ambitious conservation action, top notch team members, and real desire to support and benefit from ecological exploration and research. What more could I want from the place I work?