I am a behavioral ecologist. I began my research career in molecular ecology and later switched my focus to animal behavior – my long-term research goal is to integrate these fields to gain a better understanding of animal behavior at various levels of analysis, from learned and evolved behavioral strategies to genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. My current research focuses on ecological epigenetics, in particular the role of DNA methylation in regulating plasticity.
I grew up in Boulder, Colorado and completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado. I spent several years working in molecular systematics, first as an undergraduate assistant, then as a contracted researcher for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and finally as lab manager for the Scorpion Systematics Lab at the American Museum of Natural History. After becoming interested in animal behavior, I spent 7 months as a field assistant in South Africa studying male agonism in vervet monkeys for the Barrett-Henzi Lab (University of Lethbridge). I then went on to earn my Ph.D. from the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Department at the University of Minnesota, where I was a member of the Stephens Lab. My dissertation research focused on animal communication – specifically, how receivers integrate and utilize the various components of complex communicative signals. After graduation, I completed an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology at the University of Michigan in the Dantzer lab. In that position, I characterized spatiotemporal trends in DNA methylation across a range expansion using novel methods for observing cytosine methylation in historic museum specimens. I am currently a postdoc in the Taylor lab at the University of Victoria, where I am studying ontogenetic patterns of phototactic behavior and opsin expression in larval sablefish.