research overview

My research interests focus on the interactions between wildlife disease and behavioral ecology. By combining genetic and behavioral studies, I am interested in exploring the implications of genetic diversity on disease resistance and behavior in wild populations. In particular, I am interested in whether or not genetic diversity influences individual behaviors (such as dispersal, mating, and cooperation), and how these behaviors influence reproductive fitness and the ability of successive generations to cope with disease. Furthermore, I am interested in how these behavioral patterns influence population genetic structure over time at relevant loci and the long term ramifications of this diversity for population survival. As human encroachment is now ubiquitous in wild populations, I am also interested in how humans impact patterns of disease transmission in wild animals.

My dissertation research at Michigan State University focused on the evolution of genes in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) within the family Hyaenidae and the implications of MHC diversity on reproduction and survival. My research on the MHC has allowed me to combine my interests of evolution, behavioral ecology, and disease ecology.

This work was supported by an NSF-Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP), funding from Michigan State University, the American Society of Mammalogists, and Sigma Xi.

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previous research

As part of the Fisheries Pathobiology group from 2004 to 2006 at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, I participated in research investigating diseases of fish and shellfish populations in the North Pacific. One of the projects I worked on while there was developing a molecular assay to test for Bitter Crap Syndrome (BCS) in crustaceans. This work is detailed in our 2010 Diseases of Aquatic Organisms publication.

In 2003 and 2004, I worked in a Cytogenetics lab as a research technician at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and spectral karyotyping (SKY) to perform genome screening and investigate cancer progression in hematopoietic cell lines.

In 2003 and 2004, I also worked as a lab technician in Dr. Glenn VanBlaricom'slab in the School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington. There I conducted fatty acid extractions of Steller sea lion prey and DNA extractions of harbor seal samples, both of which contributed data for doctoral dissertations within the lab.