I am currently a graduate student under Dr. Matt Helmus and member of the Integrative Ecology Lab in the Biology Department at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My broader research interests include community ecology, ecological modeling, biogeography, phylogenetics, biodiversity, and of course, herpetology.
As a scientist, it is my goal to conduct studies that combine these disciplines so that I can contribute meaningfully to the global body of biological research.
What is Herpetology?
The reason why I study amphibians and reptiles
As far back as I can remember, I have always felt a strong interest in reptiles and amphibians. These organisms are great examples of the diversity and adaptability that can be found in nature. As a result, they are incredible focal taxa for studying how organisms interact and respond to their environments.
In this day and age, the need to be "eco-aware" is global. Often, an environment will shift in response to rapid change, and the way species react can indicate what is to come. Much like canaries in coal mines, amphibians and reptiles have become prime examples of such species, and this makes them great model organisms. By understanding patterns in amphibians and reptiles, we are able to make sense of broader ecological phenomena that can be applied to other systems as well.
A key question in ecology is: "What factors shape the presence and abundance of species?" I apply this question within a community context to measure and ask how groups of species that interact regularly are able to coexist despite numerous ecological similarities. Currently, I am looking at how some species of burrowing skinks in the genus Brachymeles are able to coexist in numerous communities throughout the Philippines, despite a high degree of perceived ecological overlap. One of the key observations among these communities of congeners is that without exception, no two species have the same gross morphology within a single community. Further, the same basic morphological categories manifest in different communities across the archipelago, which begs the question: what is driving the composition of these communities in a repeated fashion?
One of the key current concerns in herpetology is the prevalence of emerging infectious diseases. We are just beginning now to understand how amphibian and reptile diseases, such as chytridiomycosis and ranaviruses, are affecting ecosystems more broadly as some species adapt to them and others remain vulnerable. I hope to study how the effects of these diseases can be modeled across taxa to better understand how diseases shape the structure of local ecological communities.