I first became involved in the Foster/Baker lab following a guest lecture by Professor Jürgen Geist. His talk on the state of the freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera in Europe sparked a great deal of interest in me, which prompted me to join the student team under Dr. Baker that is studying the species in Massachusetts. Prior to joining the Foster/Baker lab, I was unsure of what I wanted to pursue as an undergraduate student. I took several science courses in my freshman and sophomore year before deciding on the Earth Systems Science track of the Environmental Science degree. I changed this decision to the track in Environmental and Conservation Biology in the first semester of my junior year, after taking Ecology of Disease Vectors under Professor Todd Livdahl the previous semester. The experience of working on ecological issues involving animals, both in the field in Bermuda and in the lab, led me to realize where my scientific and research interests lay.
Though many of my fellow students began research earlier in their college career, I first joined a lab during the summer of 2012, two and a half years into my Clark career. I worked in the Livdahl lab as a Bickman fellow, comparing the relevance of water type (rock hole and tree hole water) in the egg laying preferences between old and young mosquitoes of two species, Aedes albopictus and Ochlerotatus triseriatus. The goal of this research was to see if older mosquitoes had different preferences than younger ones in order to make improved mosquito traps, as older mosquitoes would be more likely to have taken a blood meal from an animal infected with a pathogen. This was a valuable experience, as I learned that I am happier working in the field than in the lab. Though I enjoyed my time in Professor Livdahl’s lab, I decided to pursue research that involved a larger proportion of field work.
My primary research interests involve studying species that are important indicators of ecosystem health with the hope that, by eventually inducing the legislature to conserve those organisms, the health of the environment as a whole will improve. My research in the Foster/Baker lab involves studying the density and distribution of the freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera in the streams in and around the east branch of the Swift River. This work is expanding on two previous generations of students, with the hope that many more who come after will work with this species. I am also interested in M. margaritifera locomotion, specifically how far and how quickly different age groups move to access a better habitat should the one they are in be disrupted. I hope to continue this research into my last undergraduate semester in the fall, and beyond into my Masters work in biology at Clark.
Outside of the lab
While at school I enjoy cooking, reading, playing games with friends, and swimming (though I am quite bad at it). At home in Vermont, I love rainy days on the porch and walking my dog through the woods. I often stop what I’m doing to look at stagnant water to try and find mosquito larvae, a remnant of working in the Livdahl lab.
- Richard P. Traina Scholar, 2009-2013
- James and Ada Bickman Research Fellow, 2012
- Carlson Research Fellow, 2013