Research Scientist
Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX

My research integrates behavioral and community ecology across a variety of land- and seascapes to improve our understanding of how environmental and human disturbance affect the development and persistence of ecological roles among individuals. Centered around this theme is understanding how flexible animal behavior and life history are from a micro to macro scale, ranging from individual animals to food webs. My primary goal is to identify contexts under which individuals, species, and ecological communities are most vulnerable to changes in their ecosystems, and the factors that increase this vulnerability to improve conservation and management. 

Collecting blood from a lemon shark to assess
trophic interactions of predators that pose a
threat to juvenile sharks in nursery habitats

My research strives to apply ecological theory to field studies to expand our knowledge of predator-prey dynamics, foraging development, and niche divergence.  D
eveloping analytical frameworks and predictive models provides me with the valuable tools I use to investigate the effects of environmental variability and perturbations on movements, trophic interactions, and foraging plasticity of mobile predators.  While my research has used these tools to study sharks and other coastal fishes, these platforms are highly adaptable, and can be applied to a broader array of species, including terrestrial predators, which my research group has begun investigating to link ecological processes across different land- and seascapes. 

Collecting muscle tissue for fatty acid analysis to
assess forage development in juvenile bull sharks
while filming for Symbio Studios and PBS

Monitoring shark populations in Florida's Gulf Coast

Using mobile predators like sharks, large-bodied teleosts, and anurans as model taxa, my research aims to understand how extrinsic and intrinsic factors lead to population- and individual-level patterns in behavior, and the persistence of such patterns. Predators connect disparate food webs and control prey populations through top-down effects. However, the ecological roles sharks and other predators play can be highly impacted by anthropogenic effects, highlighting the importance of studying predators from both an ecological and conservation standpoint. As such, I use a combination of acoustic telemetry, mark-recapture, stable isotope analysis, stomach contents, and quantitative surveys to investigate the effects of food-risk trade-offs, intraspecific competition, food availability, and environmental variability in shaping the divergence of trophic interactions and movement tactics of mobile predators. 

Aiding with a multi-organizational project investigating human impacts on tiger sharks in Bahamian waters

Recently, the scope of my research has expanded to include morphology as an indicator and driver of intraspecific variation in behavior and environmental stressors, elucidating links between genotypic relatedness and phenotypic similarities, and investigating other drivers and indicators of intraspecific variation in mobile predator populations, including parasites and unpredictable environmental events.