PhD Student, Princeton University
I grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio but spent most of my summers in Estes Park, Colorado hiking, camping and fly fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park. During these trips I realized that I felt happiest spending time outdoors, interacting with and trying to understand the natural world. I went to Brown University for college, where I majored in Biology and studied the effects of overfishing on Cape Cod salt marshes. In 2010 I signed on to work with Dr. Mark Bertness on questions of coastal ecology and conservation around the world before joining Dr. Robert Pringle’s lab at Princeton University in 2013 as PhD student.
Rob sold me on Gorongosa the very first time I met him. I was fascinated by the idea of a Park that had been through so much and was trying to rebuild on a foundation of science, community engagement and outreach. It is rare to work in a place where even your most basic results can be immediately applied towards meaningful conservation. That, I think, is what got me truly hooked. I first visited Gorongosa in August 2013 and was struck by the diversity of opportunities for young scientists and the excitement of the staff and scientists at the Park.
My research interests are broad – I am excited by the opportunity to further our understanding of basic ecology concepts while also contributing to conservation and the development of one of the world’s most beautiful national parks. Last year I worked with Dr. Tyler Kartzinel and Josh Daskin, both of the Pringle Lab, on a resurvey of Kenneth Tinley’s classic work on the Urema floodplain. Our goal was to determine how floodplain vegetation may have changed as a result of large mammal declines and what this might mean for the park as it protects and reintroduces large herbivores. I am also interested in the effects of the largest herbivores, elephants, on woody vegetation. Specifically, I’m interested in how elephants impact the understory grass and forb communities by toppling trees and creating woody barriers against other herbivores.
There are two things that make Gorongosa special for me. The first is the unbelievable beauty of the place. As someone who grew up knowing that nature would be an integral part of my life, I could have hardly imagined a place as diverse and beautiful as Gorongosa. There is no part of the Park that doesn’t draw you in and force you to take a second look. There is so much that we don’t understand about how this ecosystem works that it is thrilling to be part of the scientific effort to understand it.
The second is the opportunity to be part of a world-class team of scientists and conservationists who are all just as passionate and excited as I am. I think that kind of excitement comes only from knowing that you have a unique opportunity to make a powerful change in the lives of the people and animals who live in and rely on the Park. It is an amazing place to be a young student and scientist and I can’t wait to return.