Tawaki pick spectacular locations for their colonies, but Harrison Cove (behind me) will always be number one in my heart. Milford Sound, New Zealand (2021)
The islands of the New Zealand sub-Antarctic are far and away the most remote places I have ever been. An unimaginable number of seabirds call these islands home and it is a privilege to contribute to their conservation - even if it is always raining and howling wind. Proclamation Island-Bounty Islands, New Zealand (2022)
Current Research Focus
I am a PhD candidate in the McCracken Lab at the University of Miami and with the Tawaki Project . I am broadly interested in seabird foraging ecology, movement ecology, diving physiology, and population genetics. My PhD dissertation takes a multi-modal approach to understanding the implications of physiology and breeding colony location on foraging behavior and gene flow. First, I am assessing foraging location, diet, and gene flow in three species of penguins (Fiordland/tawaki, Erect-crested, and Eastern Rockhopper) in New Zealand. Second, I am investigating adaptations for the conservation and use of oxygen during intermittent hypoxia in Double-crested Cormorants and Anhingas in South Florida.
I grew up roaming the forest of my family's farm in north Mississippi where I developed a passion for birds. Like many animal lovers, I embarked on a career in veterinary medicine by studying Animal Science at Mississippi State University and working as a veterinary assistant. Little did I know that the next decade would take me on a very different path. After two years at MSU, I transferred to Middle Tennessee State University, switched to Biology, and became involved in undergraduate research on aquatic invasive species.
After graduation, I volunteered with Aves Argentinas and Proyecto Macá Tobiano to assist with monitoring and conservation efforts to protect the critically endangered Hooded Grebe. During this time in Argentina I encountered my first wild penguins - I was now irreparably hooked on penguins.
I began my Master's in the Mays Lab at Marshall University and pitched the idea of a thesis on stable isotope ecology in Fiordland Penguins/tawaki. With the help of a supportive advisor and bit of luck, I found the Tawaki Project and embarked on my first field season in New Zealand. Penguins and stable isotope ecology have remained central to my research at the University of Miami, but I have also expanded into population genetics and diving physiology in other taxa.
From birdwatching on our Mississippi farm, to tracking endangered penguins on sub-Antarctic islands, the last decade has brought me far from my original plan of veterinary medicine - and I wouldn't have it any other way! Although I am now focused on seabird biology, I still credit the 10+ years of working in emergency veterinary medicine with providing many of the skills that are critical to both my lab and field work.
Check out my current and past research here or head over to my CV. If you find my research, photos, or field stories interesting, or want to collaborate on a project please reach out on any of the social media accounts or e-mail below.