Research Projects - Past and Present
One Health: Polycentric Governance as an Immune System for Biosecurity
2016 - present
Through the Center for Environmental Policy at UC Davis, I'm developing a theoretical framework for applying a polycentric approach to governance to improve global biosecurity efforts. One Health is a great example of a social-ecological system that includes collective action, multi-level management, resilience, and adaptive capacity.
Spillover of respiratory mites among Pacific marine mammals
2016 - present
In partnership with the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, I study mite infestations among southern sea otters, California sea lions, and harbor seals. My projects include: 1) potential spillover of obligate respiratory tract parasites among marine mammals, 2) investigating possible cases of demodectic mange in sea otters.
Amargosa vole: conservation genetics and disease ecology
2014 - present
As part of an inter-agency collaborative team, I research the conservation of the highly endangered Amargosa vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis) in Dr. Janet Foley's Laboratory of Infectious Disease Ecology. My projects include: 1) establish a successful captive breeding program, 2) conservation genetics, specifically the use of microsatellites to assess population structure and diversity and 3) disease transmission dynamics among sympatric species in the island ecosystem of the Amargosa Valley.
Prescriptive Ecological Software
2012 - 2014
Prescriptive software is software that combines scientific analysis and site-specific land characteristics to make custom recommendations for management. I designed web-based and mobile software applications based on ecological principles to aid managers in land use and care. This software was intended to complement Rural System's approach to land management. I published scientific information for the public on the Rural System Blog.
Brucella abortus survey in African wildlife
I assisted with the screening of archived wildlife samples from Botswana (1995–2000) for seropositives for Brucellosis using Rose Bengal Test (RBT) and fluorescence polarization assays (FPA). Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease of global importance infecting humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. Little is known about the epidemiology and persistence of brucellosis in wildlife in Southern Africa, particularly in Botswana. The resulting manuscript was published in PLOSone.
Clostridium difficile assay development
As part of a research team, I worked toward developing a rapid bench-top assay for the identification of Clostridium difficile infection. The test was an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with monoclonal antibodies. This project required that I perform DNA extraction, PCR, anaerobic bacterial culture, lateral flow tests, and clinical data collection.
Seizures in genetically-obese mice
Through careful observation and meticulous breeding records keeping I discovered that our line of transgenic and knockout mice were suffering from seizures which appeared to be inherited from a particular breeding pair several generations earlier. I was able to trace the seizure phenotype through the geneological records and cull the trait from our sensitive breeding program. The project became a case study published in Lab Animal.
Wildlife camera trapping, Belize and Virginia
The wildlife camera trapping lab conducts research in both the Mayan rain forest of Belize and the Jefferson National Forest in southwest Virginia. I identified individual jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and bobcats based on unique spot patterns. Numerous other species were identified and catalogued for data entry as well. In addition to identification, I was in charge of camera maintenance and supply inventory and on weekends set up or retrieved cameras in Virginia.
Hantavirus in the Mojave Desert, Inyo County, CA
2014 - present
In collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory, I study the prevalence of hantavirus among ecological communities in the Mojave. I'm interested in how community composition influences pathogen prevalence, how host ecology effects risk of spillover to humans, source-sink pathogen dynamics, and disease reporting.
Outreach Mobile Applications
2013 - 2014
I designed web-based and mobile software applications based on ecological principles which present scientific information and management tools to the public in fun and engaging ways. This software was intended to complement Rural System's dedication to bringing aspects of wildlife and land management to the public. I published scientific information for the public on the Rural System Blog.
Banded Mongoose, E. coli, and Humans
I developed an ecological model using Banded Mongoose as a sentinel species to research the transmission dynamics of microorganisms between humans and wildlife at the interface of a borderless national park. MS thesis title "Tracking Pathogen Transmission at the Human-Wildlife Interface: Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo) and Escherichia coli as a Model System in Chobe, Botswana." This required optimization of field and laboratory protocols for bacterial growth, DNA isolation, and rep-PCR. The resulting manuscript was published in EcoHealth.
Mycobacterium mungi and Aeromonas salmonicida
I optimized PCR protocols for identifying the presence of M. mungi and A. salmonicida. Genetic material was extracted from tissue and blood of mongoose and fish, comparisons were done to determine which extraction kits best isolated DNA, custom primers were designed, and samples were then screened.
NHLH2 gene and fat marbling content in beef
I investigated the role of the NHLH2 gene (known for influencing obesity in mice) on fat marbling content in high quality beef. This project required that I isolate DNA from prestigious lines of beef cattle such as Angus and Wagyu and design primers to amplify the NHLH2 gene region and scan for SNPs.
Dominance hierarchies of captive primates
Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research field station houses thousands of captive primate species in large, outdoor enclosures in social groups. I was responsible for the wellbeing of more than 500 individuals. Behavioral observations were conducted daily to establish dominance hierarchies in groups of Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) and Sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys). I also assisted with the breeding program for specific-pathogen-free colonies as well as blood collection for SIV/HIV research using Ketamine anesthesia.
Magnetoreception & Auditory Compass orientation in mice
I performed animal husbandry for knockout C57BL/6J mice, Drosophila, European common frogs (Rana temporaria), and palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus). Mice were put into training for magnetic orientation overnight and then challenged in the testing arena which was specially designed to knockout the natural magnetic field. The purpose of this project was to investigate the molecular basis of the magnetic compass, focusing on a newly discovered class of photopigment molecules ("cryptochromes") believed to play a role in a photoreceptor-based magnetic compass.