I am originally from the Denver area of Colorado and grew up with access to the mountains and all the open spaces they provide. I have been camping, hiking, and otherwise enjoying the outdoors as far back as I can remember. Through these experiences, I decided early-on that I wanted to work with the natural community. To further this, I pursued an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After four great years at that school, I graduated with a double major in Wildlife Ecology and Botany. This double major provides a strong foundation for my interests and my current work. I am currently based out of Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden pursuing an MS in Plant Biology and Conservation.
Broadly, I am interested in the abundance of species on the landscape and how science can inform the decisions of land managers in that regard. More specifically, I am interested in the two ends of the abundance spectrum, in rare and invasive species management. Having worked several jobs in the restoration field, I have seen first-hand that decisions of land managers are often a complex balance of science and personal experience and that the needed research is not always available. I am interested in working to fill these gaps in research to facilitate more effective management.
Current Research (short version):
I have a short few paragraphs about my current research here. A longer, more in-depth version may be found under the “Research” tab, above.
Because of my interests in both rare species and invasive species, I was drawn to my current project involving the rare plant Cirsium pitcheri (Pitcher’s thistle) and the non-native weevil Larinus planus. Cirsium pitcheri occurs only on the Great Lakes dunes. It is federally threatened, and is also listed as threatened or endangered in every state and province in which it occurs. Because of its legal status, it receives active management throughout its narrow range. Larinus planus is a recent invader to this system. It was first noted using C. pitcheri as a host in 2007 in a garden setting and discovered in wild C. pitcheri populations in 2010. To address management-relevant questions, I am looking at several topics within this system. These topics can be sorted into two categories:
The first investigates the composition of floral volatiles within Cirsium pitcheri and if they differ between plants that are prone to attracting weevils and those that are not. Using dynamic headspace methods, we capture floral organic compounds for later analysis. With this information, we hope to develop chemical mixes that can be used to either repel weevils from the plants or attract them to a location for capture and reduce pressure on the thistle populations.
The second overall category is that of feeding studies with three species of Larinus. I am using L. planus, L. minutus, and L. obtusus in typical biological control tests. These three species were submitted to choice tests (two plant species present) and non-choice tests (one plant species present) to evaluate feeding preferences and risk in this system. For L. planus, I used the invasive species Cirsium arvense and Centaurea stoebe (syn. Centaurea maculosa). For L. minutus and L. obtusus, I used C. pitcheri and C. stoebe. These plant species were chosen in order to determine if L. planus would use C. stoebe as a reservoir in the dune system and to determine if the biocontrol weevils L. minutus and L. obtusus pose a threat to C. pitcheri. The former species is recorded as utilizing Centaurea spp in its native range, while the latter two have been reported on Cirsium spp in their native ranges. Information from these studies can be used by managers to weigh the costs and benefits of introducing L. minutus and L. obtusus to the dune system. It will also be helpful in clarifying the role played by C. stoebe as a weevil host in and around the dunes.
After the completion of my MS in June of 2015, I will pursue a PhD to further my experience in research with a focus that is both relevant to restoration practitioners and in line with my interests in rare and invasive species and their management.