I am a Ph.D. candidate at University of California, Santa Cruz studying the sub-lethal impacts of chronic lead poisoning in wild birds. Specifically I am measuring stress responses in the California condor, a critically endangered vulture species exposed to lead via ingesting lead ammunition in their food source: dead animals.
I fell in love with birds while studying the black-faced solitaire (Myadestes melanops) in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I was an undergrad in a study abroad program at the time and I remember feeling completely entranced by the dawn chorus in the cloud forest. My previous work experience had been in environmental toxicology and while I appreciated the impact of the work I was doing on atmospheric deposition of lead, I had a nagging feeling that I hadn’t really found my niche in the world of environmental science. After two weeks of spending my early mornings hiking and listening, I decided that bird research was for me and spent the rest of my undergraduate career collecting all the ornithology courses I could.
Eventually I made my way back into the realm of lead toxicology, but this time it was through the lens of avian conservation. After interning and volunteering for some truly excellent non-profit bird research groups, I finally got involved with the California Condor Recovery Program. These fantastically large and charismatic birds have enchanted me. A California native myself, I feel a personal responsibility to learn all I can from the condor, and promote their recovery as a species. In the past two decades, science has shown that lead poisoning is rampant in the wild condor population and is the leading cause of death for California condors (Gymnogyps californianus). In fact lead poisoning is a common cause of death for other avian scavengers as well (e.g. eagles). I realized a way for me to help solve this problem was to go back to school to study the source of lead to these birds, and the health effects chronic lead poisoning on avian scavengers.
In addition to conservation research I’m passionate about science education and outreach. I hope this page will serve as a platform to share my science with a wider audience and help me meet others who work on similar issues. Upon completing my Ph.D. I hope to find work that involves collaboration and communication with scientists and stakeholders to achieve conservation goals.