My research focuses on understanding coevolutionary interactions, particularly host-parasite interactions. I use a combination of mathematical modeling and molecular analysis in both field and laboratory settings to address how species interactions influence life history trait evolution, such as dispersal and virulence. The overall goal of my research is to develop a mechanistic understanding by which abiotic and biotic forces drive the direction and rate of evolution of coevolutionary interactions.
Teaching Philosophy: Both of my parents were high school teachers and they showed me that I must take an active role helping students understand the challenge of a new subject. As a committed teacher I want most of all to help my students learn how to think about complex problems in biology and how to apply their analytical skills to larger issues they will face as citizens. Thus my goal in teaching at all levels is to give students the tools they need to apply their new knowledge to other advanced subjects. I want my students to gain the ability to think critically and to use the scientific method to analyze problems and then to draw logical conclusions. Accomplishing this goal requires that I teach my students how to break down a problem, how to critically analyze data, and how to come up with an answer supported by evidence. When students acquire analytical skills to solve problems, they gain the ability to apply what they have learned to new problems and come up with creative solutions. This is what I strive to help my students to achieve.
Background: As native New Englander, I often show my Yankee roots (some things really are wicked good). However, over the course of my educational training, I’ve lived in many places across the country. I earned an undergraduate degree in Iowa at a small liberal arts college (Grinnell College). Attending a small liberal arts college made me appreciate small class sizes. It is important to connect with my students and provide an individualized learning environment when possible. Before my dissertation work, I worked in several labs across the country (Pittsburgh, PA; Salt Lake City, UT; Cape Cod, MA). You can read more about by pre-dissertation research here. After a solid foundation in many different empirical systems, I moved to eastern Washington to complete my PhD at Washington State University. After completing my doctorate, I moved back to the Midwest to work at Indiana University for postdoctoral training. I joined the faculty at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the Spring of 2015.