Research

I am a PhD candidate in Dr. Julian Olden's Freshwater Ecology and Conservation Lab at the University of Washington. Here I provide brief descriptions of my research interests and efforts (past and present). For a full list of publications, please see my publication page. Feel free to contact me with reprint requests.

Ph.D. Research

Diverse patterns of functional connectivity parallel behavior and life history strategies of three desert anurans

Olden Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

I work with a team of researchers from UW, Oregon State University, and the Department of Defense to better understand how our changing climate will alter patterns of precipitation and flows in Arizona. We are ultimately interested in what these changes means for aquatic desert biota in the coming decades. For my PhD, I study the ways in which native amphibians in the Huachuca Mountains and surrounding region of the Sky Island mountain ranges of Arizona may be impacted by alterations in the timing, predictability, and distribution of surface water. To get at this question, I have focused on three target species: Mexican spadefoot (Spea multiplicata), red-spotted toad (Bufo punctatus), and the canyon treefrog (Hyla arenicolor). These species span a gradient of dependence upon freshwater, and we expect that the extent to which freshwater structures populations will vary. We will first determine the population structure of these species in the Huachucas and surrounding Sky Island mountain ranges using a population genetics approach. We will then identify landscape variables that act as corridors or barriers for gene flow (a proxy for migration) – these variables may include rivers, mountain ranges, vegetation, or even parts of the human footprint like roads or stock tanks. Ultimately, we hope to couple our knowledge of how these species move on the landscape with our understanding of their population structure to predict how climate change will impact these species.

Species sampling, hydrologic data collection and modeling, and genetic lab work are all complete or near-complete. The majority of our fieldwork took place from 2010 to 2012 in the Huachuca Mountains and surround ranges of the Santa Ritas, Whetstones, Dragoons, and Mules. With the help of many local volunteers (some pictured to the right) and a few hard-working field technicians (especially Jessie Hale and Britta Padgham), sampling efforts for all species were successful.

Read more about our work in our 2012 story in the Sonoran Herpetologist here. Analyses and write-up of our data and results are currently underway. Stay tuned for updates and posts as we begin to disseminate this work! 


M.S. Research

Examining the link between fish life histories and freshwater flows

Olden Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Humans have altered freshwater rivers and streams through extensive dam construction across the world, but the specific impacts of dams and flow alteration on freshwater fishes remains unclear. For my masters I studied the effects of flow variability on the life history strategies of freshwater fishes by examining how certain life history traits vary relative to natural and altered flow regimes. By considering traits rather than taxonomy of freshwater fishes, we are able to predict which species or communities are put most at risk by flow alteration across geographic regions with few species in common. This research will help us understand how flow alteration impacts the freshwater ecosystems upon which we rely and may help guide management decisions as the human demand for fresh water grows in the coming decades.  Check out our two publications on this work (Mims & Olden 2012, Mims et al. 2010), and stay tuned for an upcoming publication examining ecological filtering of fish life histories by dams.

Read more about the Olden Lab's work on flow ecology in the Olden Lab January 2013 blog.


Undergraduate Research

Molecular ecology of Lake Malawi cichlids

Streelman Lab, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA

My experience with research began as an undergraduate in the Biology Department at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. I worked primarily with Dr. Todd Streelman and Dr. Darrin Hulsey examining multiple aspects of the evolution and ecology of Lake Malawi cichlids. These experiences included studying jaw biomechanical complexity of hundreds of cichlid species. I also helped clear and stain over 400 individual cichlids from museum collections throughout the world. For my senior honors thesis, I examined genetic variation among a wide range of species and populations of two potentially hybridizing species from Lake Malawi in order to examine the relative roles of hybridization and ancestral polymorphisms in the mosaic genomes of Lake Malawi cichlids.


Side-projects and other adventures

Ground-truthing salmon habitat models

EcoTrust, Copper River, Alaska

In 2009 I served as a fish biologist on a crew assembled by EcoTrust to validate an intrinsic potential (IP) model for spawning salmon in the Copper River Basin, Alaska. I helped with fish identification and assisted in collection of geomorphic data on channel confinement, flow velocity, channel gradient, and channel width. We focused on the Klutina and Tonsina Rivers, both tributaries to the Copper River.











Crayfish crew and urban lake sampling

Olden Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

During the summer of 2008, I worked with Dr. Julian Olden and Dr. Eric Larson conducting crayfish surveys for native signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) and invasive crayfish Procambarus clarkii and Orconectes virilis for over 50 lakes in the Puget Sound region of Washington. Also surveyed lakes for the invasive Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis). 




Snowshoe hare habitat and abundance

University of Montana, Glacier National Park, MT

I worked as a field technician for one season (2007) of a three-year study funded by the United States National Park Service to examine density of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), the dominant prey for the threatened Canadia lynx (Lynx Canadensis), in Glacier National Park. 




Mars Desert Research Station

Mars Society, Hanksville, UT

I served as the crew biologist and Health and Safety Officer for the Georgia Tech field research team at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. I organized crew’s wilderness outdoor training as well as conducted research on greywater purification, greenhouse systems analysis, and resource management for two-week stay at the research station. 




Monsoon thunderstorm over Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Monsoon thunderstorm over Fort Huachuca, August 2010.

Two Mexican spadefoots (Spea multiplicata) in an ephemeral pool on Fort Huachuca.

Volunteers for the canyon treefrog survey on Fort Huachuca, May 2012.

Checking a flow sensor in Garden Canyon, Fort Huachuca, Arizona.








Streamflow in Boulder Creek, Washington.
Boulder River, Washington.

Chattahoochee River upstream of Lake Lanier, near Cornelia, Georgia.






Lake Malawi cichlids, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia.











Klutina Lake, Copper River Basin, Alaska.

Floating the Klutina River, Copper River Basin, Alaska.



Trapping signal crayfish on Lake Samish, Washington.



Mike and Matt at work in Glacier National Park, north of Polebridge, Montana.



Mars Desert Research Station in the Utah desert.

EVA with Jenny and Anne.