My interests lie primarily on the ecological side of the Applied Biodiversity Science (ABS) program. Many people have an intuitive appreciation for the need to conserve biodiversity, but what is the functional role of this diversity? How does it affect the stability and resilience of ecological communities? Which aspects of biodiversity are most important for the functioning of ecosystems? These are the types of questions I find most fascinating; however, from my experience in the field I have come to realize that the realities of conservation require a much broader perspective.
I received my B.S. in environmental science from Drexel University with a concentration in marine ecology. My previous research has focused primarily on aquatic and marine systems, including zooplankton communities in the Caribbean, urban streams and wetlands in Philadelphia, and sea turtle populations in Costa Rica and Equatorial Guinea. Prior to joining the ABS program in 2011, I spent time working for the Philadelphia Water Department’s Office of Watersheds, the Sea Education Association, and the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program. I am fortunate to have gained experience in such a wide variety of organizations and appreciate the ABS program’s focus on building stronger connections between academic research and conservation practitioners.
For my dissertation, I will be working in the Xingu River in Brazil. Increasing hydropower expansion in tropical river basins is currently threatening aquatic biodiversity on an unprecedented scale, and the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Complex on the Xingu River is among the largest and most controversial of these projects. My dissertation uses functional traits-based approaches, null model comparisons, and stable isotope analysis in order to understand temporal changes in the functional and trophic relationships among fishes within the Xingu rapids and provide baseline data for ongoing monitoring efforts.