Knowledge changes you and the world!
College: Social Sciences & Public Policy
Degree Program: Geography
Award: McKnight Dissertation Fellowship (2022); NSF-GRFP for the North American Dendroecological Fieldweek, Society of Woman Geographers Pruitt National Minority Fellowship
Sitting on the cusp of the temperate U.S. and subtropical south Florida, the Florida panhandle is geographically unique and renowned as a hotspot for biodiversity. As a biogeographer, ecologist, and avid naturalist, I was drawn to the region to pursue my research in the Department of Geography. In addition to the unique ecology of the region, I connected with my advisor, an outstanding biogeographer and mentor, who fostered my passion and encouraged my curiosity.
Motivation to pursue a graduate degree
I have a profound interest in understanding natural systems and what governs them, and I morally feel deeply that nature holds intrinsic value and should be protected. Graduate school allowed me the opportunity to lean into my passions in a meaningful and impactful way, contributing to our scientific understanding of natural systems and providing quantitative, research-backed recommendations for management and restoration. I am committed and motivated on a deep, personal level to succeed and develop research-based solutions to the growing challenges of human impact on the environment, such as the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity. Pursuing a graduate degree has refined my skills as a scientist so that my work has broad reaching impact.
Importance and/or impact of research and work
My research explores the patterns and drivers of structure, function, and diversity in longleaf pine ecosystems. These systems are some of the most endangered ecosystems in North America, and the longleaf pine tree species is globally endangered. These ecosystems are important reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services, many of which we depend on. My work furthers our understanding of how to best manage and restore these systems so as to preserve their functioning and provisioning of services, including the conservation of biodiversity.
As I work toward completing my dissertation, I am interested in pursuing a postdoctoral research position to further refine my skills as an analyst. I then hope to obtain a tenure-track position at an R1 research institution so that I can continue to focus on producing high-quality, high-impact research that addresses the loss of biodiversity and the global climate crisis.
Advice for anyone considering graduate school
When selecting your advisor, choose the person, not the project. If you are passionate about your work, you will have to work harder to separate your work from your personal life, so create healthy boundaries. Make friends and build a community of support around you. Enjoy chasing your curiosities!
Accomplishments during graduate career
As part of my time in graduate school, I was invited to facilitate the first ever African Dendrochronological Fieldschool in Kitwe, Zambia. The goal of the fieldschool was to increase African representation in dendrochronology. I am extremely proud to be involved in this international collaborative initiative that broadens our scientific understanding of tropical dendrochronology and addresses issues related to inequity and inequality in the sciences. Additionally, I am very proud of the friendships and relationships I have built through my graduate program. I have made life-long friends and connections that have been pivotal to my success in graduate school and as a person.