My research interests focus on how changing climate is influencing the distribution and migration patterns, trophic interactions, and foraging ecology of high trophic-level marine mammals. In particular, I am interested in the effects of climate change on several species of pinnipeds, including northern elephant seals. My goal is to conduct research that can be directly applied to marine ecosystem conservation and management, especially to ecosystems threatened by changing climate.
Advances in tagging technology allow for the monitoring of animal behavior and physiology, as well as oceanographic environmental variables. Marine mammals can be tagged with satellite tracking devices that collect data on critical aspects of animal behavior, such as dive depth and duration and migration patterns, as well as ocean temperatures, salinity, and sea level. My research will serve the dual purpose of improving climate change models by using marine mammals as mobile ocean sensors and providing essential research on the effects of climate change on the distribution and foraging ecology of marine mammals.
While completing my degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Pittsburgh, I conducted research in a range of ecosystems, especially focusing on studies with direct conservation applications. I was a field assistant for a summer at the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology working on the invasive wetland plant, purple loosestrife. I also worked on a project in the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania, focusing on deer over-browsing and its implications on the composition of the forest understory. Additionally, I was an intern at Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota Fl as part of the Dolphin Research Program that monitors the resident bottlenose dolphin population in Sarasota Bay.