Surrounded by preserved wetlands in inconspicuous rural western New Jersey, I grew up in close proximity to the natural world. Beginning in this majestic setting, I became fascinated with ecology and behavior. These interests brought me around the world to study the hitchhiking behavior of leaf-cutter ants in Panama and the social behavior of the endangered Grevy’s zebra in Kenya. My undergraduate senior thesis explored the effects of sedimentation on coral morphology and feeding behavior in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia.
My current research focuses on male territories and the social system of sea otters. How are males able to attract females? What resources are males defending in their territories? Which resources contribute to male reproductive success? I hope to answer all of these questions during my Ph.D. research at U.C. Santa Cruz.
My other area of interest is teaching. For the past three years, I have designed and taught inquiry-based activities for undergraduate students at U.C. Santa Cruz. During these activities, I facilitated groups of undergraduates in designing their own field studies in the intertidal habitat at Natural Bridges State Beach. I hope to adapt this activity for the students at Watsonville High School and to offer more opportunities for engaging in real scientific practices. I hope to use my research of a local, threatened, and charismatic species to engage the students of Watsonville High School in science.