Broadly, I am interested in the evolutionary ecology of desert dwelling organisms. Particularly, the process of adaptation and response to changing environments in desert adapted small vertebrates of the American west. I have worked extensively in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, as well as the Great Basin and Colorado plateau. In short, I love deserts!

Dietary Specialization in a Small Mammal Hybrid Zone

I am working with my adviser, Marjorie Matocq, on the evolutionary ecology of a small mammal hybrid zone in southern California. There are many exciting questions to ask of this system – we are particularly interested in differential dietary adaptations between two closely related, and hybridizing, species of woodrats (genus Neotoma). These herbivores have adapted the capability of consuming and metabolizing plants with a variety of toxic compounds. We hope to understand the role of these adaptations in IMG_1884shaping the dynamics of this hybrid system.

We employ mark-recapture methods to sample individuals and collect tissue for sequencing. We are also interested in fine-scale vegetation mapping of the study system to better understand the influence of plant toxins on the maintenance of this hybrid zone.




Effects of Non-Native Vegetation

Side-blotched lizard juvenile (left), and adult female (right).

For my M.S. (Arizona State University, 2011) I studied the effects of non-native saltcedar (Tamarix sp.) on populations of the native side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana). We found side-blotched lizards used habitats with similar physical properties in both
native and non-native vegetation. Conversely, lizards displayed reduced use of habitats with dense canopy cover – often characteristic of monotypic stands of non-native saltcedar.

For more, here’s a link to my CV.