I started off knowing I loved the ocean, but while I was an undergraduate at New College of Florida (the other public honors liberal arts college), I discovered how much I enjoyed math as well. I ended up combining the two in a joint concentration for my bachelor’s degree and was co-advised by a biology and math professor for my thesis. I was also co-advised for my Ph.D. (which I started at UF and finished at UGA), and all of my postdocs (ECU, Radford, and Tulane) have had a combination of math and biology for either research or undergraduate education. I love going out and getting dirty collecting data in the field, and working on mathematical models on a chalkboard. I wanted to come back to a place like where I discovered the connection between biology and math, so I’m incredibly excited to keep the combination going at St. Mary’s.
- What classes are you planning to reach this coming fall semester? Is there one, in particular, you are most excited about?
This fall, I’m teaching the Ecology of Coastal Systems and POB I Lab. I’m really excited about Coastal Ecology. There are beautiful coastal ecosystems right off campus and I’m hoping we’ll be able to collect some field data that will not only be interesting for the students taking the class this fall but will lay a foundation for some longer-term data sets students can add to over the next several years.
- Please describe your line of research
My research primarily explores how interactions between biogenic (or living) habitats (e.g. corals and seagrasses) and their occupants create feedbacks that alter the abundance and distribution of both occupants and the habitats. I’ve studied things like how snails that eat coral change the morphology of the coral (and likely benefit from those changes) and how the configuration of corals affects fish and snail populations (and how feedbacks affect the coral). I’m also interested in other kinds of variation, such as temporal variation (or pulses) in predation and variation in predator diversity. For almost all this work, I use a combination of mathematical or simulation models and data collected from field experiments and am happy to work with students on either side or with both of these methods.
- You’ve traveled for research to many different locations. Which do you consider to be your favorite?
I think Moorea is my favorite place for research. It’s an island in French Polynesia near Tahiti and has two research stations. Throughout my Ph.D. research, I spent so much time there it really felt like a second home. The reef is beautiful and the field station is usually full of other scientists doing really interesting work. Even though travel has been tricky lately, I’m hoping to make it back out there.
- Besides being a professor and researching, what else do you like to do for fun?
I’m glad you think being a professor and researching is fun 🙂 I really like being outside with my family. I enjoy hiking, camping, snorkeling, and scuba. My husband, daughter, and I have been exploring some of the local trails and I finally made it out to snorkel around the oyster reef. So far, Maryland has been lots of fun!
- What else would you like the St. Mary’s community to know about you?
There are two related things. The first is that I wanted to come back to a liberal arts college because of the ability to connect across fields. The second is that I am quite easily distracted and love hearing about what other people are working on and excited about. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to wander and just ask people what they’re doing and if they’ve found anything cool. I especially love figures. So, please tell me about what you’re doing and interested in! Even if, maybe especially if, you’re not doing what I’m doing. It will quite possibly make my day.