My Research Interests
I am interested in how human impacts on the landscape alter ecosystem function. Deforestation, urbanization, and climate change alter the connectivity of populations, the composition of communities and the emergence of disease. Using a combination of field and laboratory techniques, my lab seeks to understand how host populations maintain reservoirs of pathogens in a changing landscape. Invasive species can be excellent model systems to study, because they are particularly sensitive to these alterations and in turn serve as catalysts for changes in ecosystem function. We use this approach to study disease systems in threatened and endangered species, at the livestock/wildlife interface, and for wildlife diseases that are threats to human health.
My Focus on Extension
The goal of my extension program is to educate the general public, livestock producers, pet owners, wildlife recreationists, and wildlife professionals about wildlife diseases. My program has three foci:
- Food safety for wildlife recreationists, professionals, and small farm producers. This program instructs people how to safely handle and cook game meat, and provides information about damage control by feral swine.
- Liaison between the public and public health professionals. I advise what to do and who to contact if someone has been bitten by a wild animal or a tick
- General knowledge about wildlife diseases. I provide general knowledge about the different wildlife diseases that impact Floridians.
My Role as Director of CHeRI
The Cervidae Health Research Initiative (CHeRI) is a state-funded liaison between the Florida deer farm industry and the University of Florida. The mission of CHeRI is to promote interdisciplinary science, education, and outreach that increases the health and production of captive cervids in a sustainable manner and promotes the health of native wildlife and the ecosystems in which they live. My role as Director is to ensure that the research mission reflects the needs of the producers, that the information produced from the research is widely available to the producers, and that excellent scientists and extension specialists are trained in wildlife health.
How I Run My Lab
My research lab provides an inclusive, intellectually stimulating learning environment in a research setting, and provides these experiences for high school students, undergraduates, graduate and professional students, research technicians, biological scientists, and post-docs. My goal is to expose and immerse students in a research environment that allows them to encounter multiple types of instructional approaches from informal lectures and workshops to guided research projects. I strongly encourage collaboration and interaction among all of my lab members to promote active peer to peer learning. This combination of approaches enhances the ability to not only acquire, but to analyze and ultimately synthesize new information. The outcome has been productive cohorts of students that bring creativity and joy to their scientific inquiry.