How did you get to where you are now, in terms of your education and training in science?
- I am actually not only a St. Mary’s Alumni, but also a St. Mary’s County native. So, my appreciation for the environment came from growing up around and getting to explore the water and natural places here in Southern Maryland. Combined with a tendency to ask too many questions, a career in ecology seemed like a natural fit. When it came time for college, I assumed that I would shake off the dusk of my sleepy hometown and heading to a big city, but after visiting St. Mary’s Campus and hearing about all the amazing opportunities available to students (labs at the riverfront, studying abroad in Australia, getting credit to learn how to sail) I was hooked. After four amazing years here at St. Mary’s, I wanted to see how I could best make a difference for these natural spaces that I have come to love some much. So, I spent three years at the Chesapeake Bay Program, where I was a part of developing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which defines how the watershed states plan to reach their shared environmental goals. I took this experience with me as I went to graduate school at the University of Florida, where I received my PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology, blending the worlds of policy and marine ecology in my Dissertation. After graduation, I had about two weeks before starting teaching here (phew!), but so far, the short turnaround has been worth it! I took this position because I wanted to learn how to best share my science, and where better to do that than a school that has such a strong focus on teaching excellence. I am very excited to be back and see what else St. Mary’s can teach me!
What classes are you teaching this fall semester? Is there one in particular you are most excited about?
- I am teaching Contemporary Bioscience, Introduction to Environmental Studies, and Environmental Science Lab, and am excited about them all! I love the flexibility that St. Mary’s gives faculty to try new teaching techniques and make courses their own. If you twisted my arm however, I might say that I am slightly more excited for labs, just because I am looking forward to using the natural spaces on campus to learn, which is part of what I loved about being a student here.
Please describe your line of research
- My research interests center around coastal wetlands and how they are affected by the changing climate. In particular, my dissertation focused on the climate mitigated range expansion of tropical mangrove trees into coastal wetlands traditionally dominated by temperate salt marshes as well as investigating the potential for advancement of coastal wetland management on all political scales. I love coastal wetlands because they are so important to so many people and species. To fully understand coastal wetlands you can’t just study the marsh plants, or the mangroves, or the seagrass as individual organisms, but you have to also understand the animals that rely on them as habitat, the land and water that they connect, and the people that they support through their many ecosystem services. It’s these big picture connections that really interest me, and make me so excited to do this work, even if it means spending hours waist deep in mud in the Florida summer sun.
As a St. Mary’s alumni, how does it feel to be back in this community?
- It feels great! I forgot how beautiful campus is and love just being able to walk on the paths everyday again. I love that the campus still has its weird quirks that make it unique. I am only slightly concerned that my brain will go on autopilot one day, and I’ll find myself trying to break into LQ7. I am also never going to get used to calling my old professors by their first names.
Besides being a professor and researching, what else do you like to do for fun?
- In my free time I like to spend time outside with my partner and my dog Maple. We go to the dog park, hiking, and to the beach (Maple is a golden retriever so she loves the water as much as I do!). I also really enjoy traveling, exploring new places and eating all the local food. But since traveling has been limited during the pandemic, I started some new hobbies like brewing beer and baking bread, which have been fun to learn but definitely have contributed to my quarantine fifteen.
What else would you like the St. Mary’s community to know about you?
- I love coffee, and I love dogs. Bring me coffee and tell me a funny story about your pup and you will have an instant friend.