I am interested in the gene regulatory networks underlying transdifferentiation and organogenesis during development. I am using weakly electric mormyrid fish and investigating the formation of the larval vs adult electric organ to look into these gene networks. I want to take an evolutionary developmental approach and investigate how the electric organ first developed ancestrally and how modification to the “electric organ” gene network allowed for the diversity in form and function that is seen among mormyroids.
The application of quantitative methods in ecology and conservation is the principal driver for my dissertation research. I develop hierarchical models to parse out the complexities of ecological systems into processes that can be described using multi-level statistical and mathematical models. I utilize the flexibility of a Bayesian statistical framework and rigorous computer programming to implement hierarchical models. The estimates from these models inform wildlife management, and the model development provides a quantitative framework for future ecological and conservation research.
My research is at the interface of animal behavior and microbial ecology, exploring how an organism's behavior shapes its microbial communities, and how microbial communities, in turn, influence their host's behavioral phenotype. Specifically, I am studying the socioecological predictors affecting microbiome structure in spotted hyenas, and the functional contributions of various body-site specific microbiomes to hyena behavior, physiology, and fitness.