Before my pursuit of a scientific career in ecology, I was a military veteran fresh off active duty turned biology undergraduate hoping to go to medical school one day. However, two events completely reshaped my trajectory. The first was my experience shadowing a cardiovascular surgeon, which was my ultimate goal. Unfortunately for me at the time, this cardiovascular surgeon looked at patients as nothing more than dollars and cents, and it warped my opinion of the medical field entirely. In the end, I was grateful for my early pursuit in medicine, because it started me down the path of science and taught me genetics—my favorite subject and the backbone of all my research. The second, as funny as this will sound, was watching The Inconvenient Truth and realizing for the first time what was happening to our planet. This movie served as a call to action, and inspired me to do my part to help our planet and understand how we were affecting it. In a way, closing the door to medicine made room for a new one to open, and set me on the path I’ve been on ever since.
Today, I am a Molecular Ecologist, first generation American, and United States military veteran currently working at Princeton University as a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow under the advisement of Dr. Robert Pringle in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department. I received my PhD from Rutgers University in the Ecology and Evolution graduate program under the advisement of both Dr. Julie Lockwood and Dr. Dina Fonseca.
My research interests focus on addressing critical questions in invasion and community ecology to understand how these impacts are fundamentally affecting terrestrial communities. As a a molecular ecologist I use a suite of molecular techniques and analyses to address these critical questions, whether it’s assembling invasion pathways, detecting rare or cryptic species, or understanding the affects of species introductions on community structure and food networks. Biological invasions in particular provide us with unique opportunities to ask ecological and evolutionary questions and that would otherwise be impossible to determine or unethical to execute. My research vision going forward will focus on assessing the impacts of species invasions and climate change, and how these impacts will reshape the trajectories of our terrestrial communities.