PhD Candidate, Ocean Sciences
MS Biology, Bucknell University
BS, Wildlife & Conservation Biology, University of Rhode Island
Seabird Foraging Ecology & Contaminants
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Seabirds are bioindicators of many processes in the marine environment because they are top predators that forage in pelagic and coastal habitats, thereby sampling a large area of ocean. I am using seabirds to study contaminants in the ocean. Contaminants like Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and mercury are ubiquitous in many regions of the world, and both humans and wildlife are susceptible to the adverse effects of POPs, which include embryonic deformities and mortality and eggshell thinning.
The objectives of my research are to: 1) determine concentrations of POPs and mercury in seabirds; 2) evaluate contaminant concentrations and concurrent concentrations of an avian breeding hormone, Prolactin, in seabirds; and 3) determine foraging habitat characteristics of these seabirds with GPS tags and oceanographic variables. To accomplish these objectives, I am studying seabirds (boobies, frigatebirds, petrels, and shearwaters) in several types of marine environments: pelagic atolls in the Equatorial Pacific (Palmyra Atoll, Line Islands) and the North Pacific (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) and coastal regions in the Southern Ocean (Western Australia), the Gulf of California, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.
My research is the product of many great collaborations, including Dr. J. Alfredo Castillo Guerrero (Centro de Investgación en Alimentación y Desarrollo (CIAD), Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico); Dra. Jaqueline García Hernandez (CIAD, Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico); Dr. Bradley Clarke (RMIT University, Victoria, Australia); Dr. Olivier Chastel (Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chize, France); Dra. Adriana Vallarino Moncada (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur Unidad Campeche, Mexico); Dr. Sarah Hudson (University of New Brunswick, Canada); and Dr. Jennifer Lavers (University of Tasmania, Australia).
I am intrigued by large-scale animal movements, such as migration, the reasons that drive animals to travel long distances, and the environmental conditions that animals encounter on these journeys. These interests were piqued during my undergraduate program in Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Rhode Island (URI). The program included many field-based courses, and I was enthralled by the possibility of pursuing field research as a full-time career. I also minored in International Development, an interdisciplinary program that included courses in sustainable development, foreign language, and a trip to a coffee-growing cooperative in Costa Rica. URI confirmed not only my desire to conduct field research, but to become involved in field ecology at the international level.
After graduating from URI, I took the opportunity to fortify my foundation of academic knowledge by becoming a biological field research technician. I traveled extensively while working for universities, graduate students, and federal, state, local, and non-profit agencies in California, Hawaii, North Carolina, the US Virgin Islands, and the far-flung island-nation of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. I then earned my Master’s degree in Biology at Bucknell University, where I studied physiology and reproductive effort in the Leach’s Storm-petrel, a seabird that breeds on Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada.