My research interests span all aspects of ecology
and evolutionary biology, but center on bird behavior
and host-pathogen interactions. My graduate thesis examines
how social behavior in house finches, a locally common
bird species, impacts the dynamics of a bacterial pathogen.
I am drawn to the study of host-pathogen interactions
because they combine the visible world of the host with
the microscopic realm of the pathogen, which pushes
the imagination into the unseen. Host-pathogen interactions
also make great tools for inquiry-based learning because
they incorporate broad ecological and evolutionary principles,
and they interest anyone who has ever been sick!
Using inquiry-based approaches, I hope to lead students
in asking questions about how hosts and pathogens interact
in the wild. As a complement to my own research, students
could observe infected house finches at feeders (the
bacteria causes visible eye symptoms) and test hypotheses
about how this host and pathogen impact each other.
Using petri dish experiments, students can study the
evolution of antibiotic resistance hands on, and evaluate
current medical policies to slow its impact. Other timely
scientific issues, such as why pathogens decimate endangered
species and why new pathogens such as SARS are so deadly,
could be addressed through student research and discussion.
I am also interested in leading inquiry-based programs
on general aspects of bird ecology, and I am eager to
incorporate and expand educational materials from the
Laboratory of Ornithology in these programs. Finally,
I have a strong side interest in using the Museum of
the Earth (Paleontological Research Institute, PRI)
to develop inquiry-based projects on local geological
history. The Finger Lakes area is rich in the history
of life and the earth. Students could collect fossils
in local gorges, learn how the gorges came to be, and
examine and measure local fossils in the teaching collections
at PRI in order to ask questions about how life, and
the earth, has changed through time.