ABOUT ME

Amanda Whispell.jpg

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.  My interests have matured a lot since those days, and now I enjoy asking questions about those 'specimens' and finding ways to answer them.

My very first solo research project was completed during my study abroad at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia in 2003.  This project focused on monitoring and recording the aggressive and territorial behaviors exhibited by green tree ants, Oecophylla smaragdina.  The research included a detailed behavioural analysis as well as the creation of a surrogate nest and colony.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Rhode Island I spent my senior year researching Northern Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin), and the feasibility of founding a new breeding population at the mouth of the Narrow River in Narragansett, Rhode Island. During this time I was also employed as a student technician at URI's Graduate School of Oceanography.  While working as a technician I was trained to identify numerous zooplankton species - specifically copepods.  I am able to identify, sex, and determine the stage of numerous copepod species. I also had the opportunity to work on a project in conjunction with NOAA, and thus I was able to participate in a one week specimen collection trip on George's Bank off the east coast of the US.

During my fourth year at URI, I was also employed as a student technician at URI's Graduate School of Oceanography.  While working as a technician I was trained to identify numerous zooplankton species - specifically copepods.  I am able to identify, sex, and determine the stage of numerous copepod species.  I was also given the opportunity to work on a project in conjunction with NOAA, and thus I was able to participate in a one week specimen collection trip on George's Bank off the east coast of the US.

I am also trained and have hands on experience working with avian species. I spent one summer working at Fiskerierket, a Swedish government administrative authority for conservation and utilization of fishery resources that has since ended, in Älvkarleby, Sweden where I volunteered on a project that aimed to determine the predatory impact the Great Cormorant (Phalacracorax carbo) was having on the local fishing industry. During this time I was required to monitor the birds, as well as collect their pellets for examination.  We also did nest and egg counts so that we were able to establish the population size and the predation rates on the birds themselves. 

My favourite pastimes include travelling, camping, hiking, diving, birding, frogging, painting/drawing, vegetarian cooking/baking, and macrophotography.  I do biological illustrations, mostly invertebrates, however I am willing to work on other projects if given the opportunity.  Please free to contact me if you would like to hire me for illustration purposes.

Amanda Whispell

Cave diving in 2003  in the Whitsunday Islands, in Queensland, Australia (I'm on the left!)

Vigo, 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.  

WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO ME

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.

Invertebrate Conservation:
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