I haven’t taken the traditional route to become a PhD student. I have always been interested in wildlife and have had many great opportunities. I am thrilled about this latest opportunity to learn new skills and tools to conduct research and continue working with wildlife conservation in Latin America.
I started working with wildlife during high school as a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator and continued rehab work throughout undergrad as a biology student at Virginia Tech. I then completed vet school at Cornell University where I became more interested in clinical wildlife medicine. After graduation, I worked at an all bird clinic in Portland, OR for a year before deciding to join Peace Corps Ecuador. It was in Ecuador where I became interested in wildlife trafficking and health risks associated with wildlife trade.
I helped establish an animal-welfare organization and remained working in Ecuador for almost 10 years. While in Ecuador I realized that I enjoy teaching and wildlife-conservation advocacy work. Once back in the U.S., I worked for a couple of years each at a small animal hospital in Vermont and a wildlife teaching hospital in Virginia. Although I adored treating wild animals and teaching vet students, I felt I wasn’t making a big enough contribution to wildlife conservation and sustainability of healthy wild populations. Therefore, I decided to return to school and was fortunate enough to learn about the ABS program.
My research revolves around legal and illegal parrot trade in Peru and the potential risk of disease spread to humans and wild parrot populations. The ABS program gives me the flexibility and encouragement to evaluate this conservation concern from many different angles: social, political, biological and medical. By combining both social and biological sciences, I will be able to thoroughly understand the situation and thereby make realistic management recommendations.