I’m a Ph.D. Student in the Coastal Conservation Ecology Lab working with Dr. Robert Dunn. My research aims to link changes in shrimp populations with environmental conditions by leveraging long-term monitoring datasets from South Carolina DNR, Georgia DNR, and the National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) in each state. I will also be part of the team sampling those NERR’s to assess the estuarine habitat use by shrimp and other nekton. Penaeid shrimp rely on estuaries as nursery habitats and are critically important ecologically and economically in the southeastern United States. Understanding how shrimp use estuaries and how they’re affected by environmental conditions can help develop best practices for managing these important organisms, habitats, and fisheries.
Where I grew up in Maryland, people, estuaries, and fisheries are all closely connected. The Chesapeake Bay fuels so much of the culture and commerce of the state that it’s hard not to get excited about fish, crabs, and bays! As a kid, I could almost always be found in some body of water messing with the local critters. I was fortunate to have parents that patiently allowed me to clomp my way home covered in mud, carrying an equally muddy dip net and maybe a turtle or frog. When I got older, I realized I could make a career out of pursuing my curiosity and studying wildlife, so I set out to do just that. While completing my B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries from Frostburg State, I dipped my toes into a little bit of everything from salamanders to owls. Ultimately, it was my experiences during internships at the Baldhead Island Conservancy and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center that reconnected me to my love of estuaries and marine science. After graduating, I worked at a non-profit as a science and education intern and then as an endangered species observer aboard dredges monitoring the impacts of dredging on whales, sea turtles, and fish. Before coming to UofSC, I completed my M.S. at Texas A&M University, where I studied the nursery habitat use and recruitment dynamics of juvenile fishes in Matagorda Bay, Texas.
I came to UofSC mainly to work with Dr. Dunn and Dr. Matt Kimball on the shrimp project. This project sounded like a great opportunity to work with a collaborative, driven, and thoughtful team of scientists working on impactful research in a beautiful part of the country. UofSC’s program is quite a bit more oceanographic than the ecologically focused programs I’ve been in thus far, so it seemed like a great chance to round out my understanding of the marine environment. After graduating, I hope to continue marine ecological research with a focus on fisheries and estuarine habitats. I’d be happy to do this with a federal agency like NOAA or an academic institution. I’ve found teaching and outreach to be one of the most rewarding parts of my career. Wherever I land after graduation, I would like a chance to mentor the next generation of scientists and share my research with the general public, who share my love for coastal ecosystems and the animals that call them home.