Research Statement:

I am an applied ecologist investigating the reactionary relationships between animals and humans in highly modified landscapes with the aim of exploring symbiotic solutions to mitigate present conflicts and avoid future clashes between co-occurring humans and animals. As human-altered landscapes continue to expand at unprecedented rates and with experts at the United Nations predicting that nearly 90% of Americans will be living in cities in the next three decades, investigating the ways in which wildlife adapts to human-dominated environments and studying the shifts in ecosystem services these animals provide is incredibly important. My previous research has focused in areas of animal behavior, habitat selection and utilization, effects and impacts of human disturbance, as well as how humans think about and interact with domestic and wild animals. My field work priortizes “non-invasive” methods such as camera traps, hair snares and small mammal hair tubes, as well as in-field measurements and observations to avoid undue stress or harm to study subjects. 

I am specifically interested in differences between rural and urban populations of the same species and am currently exploring this area through my master’s thesis research focused on diet variation of mammalian mesopredators and their potential small mammal prey across the rural-urban gradient in the greater Philadelphia area. The aim of this project is to better understand the provision, or lack thereof, of potential pest management services by mesopredators in a growing urban area that struggles with waste management and zoonotic lyme disease transmission, and is currently expanding its metropolitan park system.

Research Topics & Projects

Urbanization & Ecosystem Services

Solving a hairy problem: Adaptation of non-trapping hair collection methods reveals urban mammal dietary shifts and provides opportunities for outreach

Dr. Jocelyn Behm, iEco Lab, Temple University 

Fur from mesopredators and small mammals was non-invasively collected across 16 parks in the greater Philadelphia area to be identified to the lowest taxonomic level feasible, then processed and sent for stable isotope analysis of nitrogen and carbon signatures to investigate diet variability across the rural-urban gradient.

Human-Animal Interactions

Attribution of Secondary Emotions to Non-Human Mammals

Dr. Maggie Smith, Earlham College

Undergraduate students at Earlham College were asked to rate how likely they believed an animal experienced the secondary emotions of shame, guilt, empathy, embarrassment, pride, grief, and jealousy. Overall, a trend emerged of secondary emotions being attributed more strongly to domestic animals compared to wild animals, with significant differences observed between domestic dogs and grey wolves as well as domestic horses and zebras.

Mammal Behavior & Habitat Utilization

Effects of predation pressure on O. virginianus behavior in Wayne County, Indiana

Dr. Karen Mager, Earlham College

Motion-sensor trail cameras were deployed at sixteen deciduous forest interior and edge sites on private conservation lands. Vigilance behavior, time of activity, and habitat utilization of O. virginianus was measured before, during, and after hunting and fawning seasons. No significant variation in vigilance behavior, daily activity patterns, or timing of habitat use was observed between periods in either hunting or fawning seasons.

Disturbance & Invasion Ecology

Invasibility of differing successional stages of East-central Indiana forests by East Asian shrubs

Dr. Brent Smith, Earlham College

Eight deciduous forest sites were categorized as young, middle, and old-growth stands using aerial photographs from 1936, 1976, and 2016 and L. maackii, R. multiflora, E. umbellata, and B. thunbergii were surveyed. Across all old-growth sites there were significantly lower densities of invasives than in young- or middle-growth sites and L. maackii was found to be significantly taller and had greater diameters in young-growth sites than in either middle- or old-growth sites.

Biological Impacts of Climate Change

Climatic effects on nesting and reproductive output in western painted turtles (Chrysemys picta)

Dr. John Iverson, Earlham College

Reproductive data for C. picta detailing clutch counts had been collected by undergraduate students over a period of approximately fifteen years from the population of turtles nesting on the northern shore of Gimlet Lake within the Crescent Lake Wildlife Refuge in Ellsworth, NE. Clutch counts were measured against climatic variables including rainfall and temperature but no significant trends were observed.