I started my undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point in the fall of 2005. As part of an honors intern program in 2006, I began working with Dr. Chris Yahnke as the assistant curator of birds and mammals at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point (UWSP) Museum of Natural History, acquiring and cataloging over 1,500 specimens over the next 6 years.
My first experience with field research came in June 2007 when I joined Dr. Bob Rosenfield, helping capture and band Cooper’s hawks as part of a project investigate differences in genetic diversity and blood parasites between Western and Wisconsin birds. In 2008, I was awarded a summer internship at the U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. to work on forefoot morphology of two cryptic Central American shrews under the aegis of Dr. Neal Woodman (Curator of Mammals). This 10-week research training program involved tours of the various museum divisions, discussions of research, and working directly on a research project co-developed with a mentor.
During the summer of 2009, I began what would later become my masters work, surveying small mammals in natural plant communities of Wisconsin. In the fall of 2009, I received my Bachelor of Science degree from UWSP, co-majoring in wildlife ecology (research and management) and biology with a minor in museum methods. Shortly thereafter, my adviser Dr. Eric Anderson and I were able to secure funding to turn my undergraduate pursuit into a master’s project.
In two summers of field work I trapped 3,261 small mammals of 23 taxa at 180 sites across the state of Wisconsin. In terms of geographical extent, this trapping endeavor represents one of the largest studies of Wisconsin small mammals completed since Hartley Jackson’s initial surveys in the early 1900s. My research focused on biotic and abiotic factors important for species occurrence and how idiosyncratic species responses to these factors leads to community structure across Wisconsin. I also investigated techniques that can be used to more effectively sample small mammal communities and distinguish cryptic Peromyscus species. Additionally, during my time as a masters student I worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to develop guidance documents for 6 small mammals listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in Wisconsin. These documents are designed for forest and land managers, aiding in species identification, ecological and natural history understanding, management, and avoiding or mitigating habitat degradation.
In the fall of 2012, I started my PhD at the University of New Hampshire working with Dr. Rebecca Rowe on the impacts of forest structure and biotic interactions on small mammal communities in the White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire. I’m using spatially explicit capture recapture models and isotopic techniques to help understand how resources are partitioned between putative competitors. My research also investigates mycophagy (consumption of fungus) of New England small mammals and how interactions among species modify ecosystem function by changing spore dispersal capacities. Additionally, while in Dr. Rowe’s lab I’ve had the opportunity to join field expeditions in other geographical areas including the Pine Mountains of Nevada and the North Slope of Alaska.