I have wanted to be a scientist for as long as I can recall. As a child I spent my days running around my backyard, trying to capture ‘specimens’ so that I could practice my identification skills and observe their behavior – I even had my own little zoo in my tree house. My interests haven’t changed much since those days but now I enjoy asking questions about those 'specimens' and finding ways to share the experience with other people. There are a lot of things about which I am very passionate about in my professional life.
I am very passionate about...
...Public STEM Education / Outreach:
A lack of public understanding of—and trust in—STEM topics is having a significant, negative impact on society in America. From antivaxxers latching on to a since debunked claim that vaccines cause Autism, to climate change and COVID19 deniers — the all-to-common belief that an expert should never be trusted because they must have an agenda is both concerning and dangerous. As scientists, we have been thrust into the role of teacher, and it is probably one of the most important "classes" we have to
teach. We must find ways to have a healthy exchange of information in a way that does not make others feel talked down to and that helps to rebuild trust in the expert opinion. I work to translate science in digestible pieces of information through art, lecture, and activities and am available for outreach opportunities.
I am extremely passionate about conservation and especially concerned with invertebrate conservation. Invertebrates make up 97% of all organisms on the planet but (save for some pollinator species) they are often overlooked in conservation efforts. There are plenty of non-pollinator invertebrates that are ecologically crucial — playing roles in food webs and overall biodiversity. I specialize in freshwater macroinvertebrate sampling and water quality assessment, in teaching others to identity bio-important species, and in outreach talks to help others to appreciate invertebrates. I have found knowledge to be the most powerful tool to calm the anxieties that many people experience when they encounter "creepy crawlies." I'm open to any public outreach that helps advocate for our less-/non-bony cohabitators.
...Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
Insects are the most biodiverse group of organisms on the planet, yet you only need to walk through an entomology department at any university to see that the diversity is not mirrored in the faculty. STEM fields are still dominated by white males, while women, BIPOC, Latinx, and LGBTQAI+ individuals are consistently underrepresented. We’ve known about this disparity for years but very little true action has been taken to correct it and these groups will continue to remain underrepresented unless we make resolute efforts to improve inclusivity, diversity, and equity in all STEM fields. No matter my future employment, I intend to be proactive in developing and/or participating in initiatives and programs to increase diversity in STEM fields
To pursue this new (warmer) dream I returned to JCU with the intention to work with Richard Rowe on a master’s degree. The funding for the position fell through after the first year and I had to return back to the states. I did get some more time in Australia though and this time I did a bit more sight-seeing up the east coast and was able to see so many awesome critters! Although I was unable to complete the master’s degree at JCU I left more determined than ever. Back stateside I spent the next couple of years relearning things from my high school AP courses and my first couple of years as an undergraduate so that I could take the GREs (which were not needed for graduate work in Australia) and find a graduate school in the US. All that
Cave diving in 2003 in the Whitsunday Islands, in Queensland, Australia (I'm on the left!)
I also discovered a second love while I was a graduate student – teaching. I never expected to enjoy or get so much satisfaction from teaching as I do. I have had the opportunity to teach at the college level and found it challenging but also very fulfilling. I also found a love for teaching science to people who may not be so keen to learn about science. I love to find the way to show them all of the things I love about it. I have had some really exceptional students and their feedback about how my courses changed their mind or perceptions about biology gives me a lot of pride. I’m still looking for my next chapter but, for now at least, I have my art, online education content, and my own research to keep me busy until I find the right fit.
Beyond studying biology – I also love traveling, camping, hiking, diving, birding, rock-flippin’ (this is where you flip rocks underwater to see all the cool critters living beneath them), painting/drawing, vegetarian cooking/baking, and macrophotography. I have started making short YouTube videos on the critters I find and all the cool things they do and I try to put information about those critters on my #Inverti-blog! I do biological illustrations, mostly invertebrates, however I am willing to work on other projects if given the opportunity. You can see some of my work under Galleries or CoBioArt.
Please free to contact me if you would like to hire me for illustration purposes or if you / your kids want to know a little bit more about biology!
The #bestVigothecat, our cat, loves damselflies and science too, and he's always available to help when I need some assistance with my research... especially when it involves keeping an eye (or a tooth or two if I'm not paying attention) on living critters.