Although I have recently made the decision to leave the PhD program all but dissertation, my life of learning has just begun. I hope to use my knowledge of science and animal behavior to contribute to an environmental or ecological based industry. Currently, I work for the KY Division for Air Quality as an Environmental Scientist and Inspector. My focus is on air pollution regulation and compliance assistance. I interpret Title V and minor source permits while conducting compliance inspections of permitted facilities. I also have extensive public contact during residence investigations based on citizen complaints. I have excelled in defusing tense situations and in educating the public about state laws. I have also continued my education in optional online and class coursework offered by FEMA, the EPA, and other state resources.
My previous research interests in Louisville were on parental care and sex-roles in fish as well as stress and cognition. Other work, outlined below, has involved both fish and birds.
I have managed to keep my beliefs intact, as an animal welfare advocate, while pursuing a research career in animal behavior. I hope to teach others that the two are not mutually exclusive. My research projects have used animals, without abusing them. I believe in never taking your research organism for granted. Always remember the life that is in your hands. I hope that my research in the future can take a more active role in gaining knowledge of animal suffering and experimentation.
During my time at Eastern Kentucky University, I was fortunate enough to work with Dr. Nick Santangelo on a species he currently had in the lab. Convict cichlids form bonds in which males tend to defend a territory while females do more direct care for the eggs and newly hatched young.I was interested in parental care and sex roles found in monogamous species and his cichlids were exhibiting an interesting behavior; females were courting other females in a stock tank. I used this to design an experiment which used homosexual female parents to look at the plasticity of sex roles. Results suggest that some roles are genetically determined within a pair and it is not necessarily ability or size that defines behaviors.
My M.S. thesis was conducted with Dr. Gary Ritchison at Eastern Kentucky University. We worked on parental care strategies and UV reflectance in nestlings.Most songbirds are visually sensitive to ultraviolet wavelengths and, in some species, variation in the extent to which plumage reflects in the UV range provides information about individual quality that influences mate-choice decisions. Less is known about the possible importance of plumage UV reflectance in parent-offspring relationships. The lower breast and belly plumage of nestling Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) reflects in the UV and adults may use variation in this reflectance to evaluate nestling quality and vary their provisioning behavior accordingly. To examine this possibility, I manipulated UV reflectance of nestling plumage for two broods of phoebes by applying preen oil that either did or did not contain UV-blocker. After treatment, nestlings were placed in an experimental apparatus and the provisioning behavior of adult phoebes was monitored by videorecording. Control and UV-blocked nestlings were fed at similar rates by male and female phoebes, indicating that variation in UV reflectance of nestling lower breast and belly plumage does not influence adult provisioning behavior. The color of the yellow breast and belly feathers of nestling phoebes may be a selection neutral trait that is correlated with adult plumage characteristics that have other signaling functions. I found that first broods were fed at higher rates than second broods. Young in first broods may survive at higher rates than those in second broods. As such, adult phoebes may invest more in those young that are most likely to contribute to their reproductive fitness. However, reduced provisioning rates for second broods may also result from decreased thermoregulatory demands of nestlings hatching later in the summer when ambient temperatures are higher. Finally, female Eastern Phoebes fed nestlings at higher rates than males. Differences between the sexes may be due to sex-specific differences in the costs and benefits of investing in young or to sex-specific differences in parental roles.