I can't remember a time that I wasn't fascinated with biology. Childhood interests in sharks and snakes led me to seek an undergraduate degree in biology at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). As an undergrad at FIT, I studied the behavior and physiology of infrared reception in snakes in Dr Michael Grace's laboratory. I also participated in an NSF-funded research experience for undergrads under Dr Michael Dorcas at Davidson College, where I studied black ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus) spatial ecology.
After earning my BS, I pursued my PhD in Biology under Dr Steven Beaupre at the University of Arkansas. My dissertation research examined the physiological mechanisms and bioenergetic costs underlying reproductive allocation in viviparous snakes, and the mechanisms by which hatchling Smooth Softshell Turtles (Apalone mutica) utilize residual yolk (with Dr Michael Plummer). Along the way, I assisted Dr. Beaupre in his long-term field and laboratory investigation of Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) physiological ecology.
After finishing my PhD in 2010, I was hired as a postdoc in Dr Bill Hopkins' laboratory to study the effects of coal fly-ash contaminants on vertebrate reproduction. In 2012, I was awarded an NSF International Research Fellowship to study the physiology and evolution of viviparity and the placenta, using reptiles as model systems. This opportunity brought me to work in Prof Michael Thompson's lab at the University of Sydney (USyd), in Australia. In 2015, I was hired to work in Dr Ricky Spencer's lab at Western Sydney University (WSU), on the conservation and physiological ecology of Australian Turtles. I currently maintain dual appointments with Dr Spencer at WSU and with Prof Thompson at USyd since he is a co-PI on Dr Spencer's grant. This allows me the freedom to pursue my own research interests in both conservation physiology of turtles and evolution of reproductive mechanisms in vertebrates.
And maybe someday I'll figure out a way to safely study the evolution of viviparity and placentation in sharks (as an aside, keep an eye on Keiichi Sato's website for some fascinating work on Great White Shark reproductive biology that he presented at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in 2015- Page 19 of this abstract list). I still find them fascinating to observe in the wild while snorkeling and SCUBA diving near Sydney and elsewhere in Australia.