Graduate Teaching Assistant
I have worked with birds for many years, ranging from small songbirds to hawks and owls. I always enjoyed being outdoors and seeing wildlife, so about a month after getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Sciences, I started volunteering at my local nature center doing bird surveys. Working with birds was a great way for me to experience many different habitats and see a lot of remote and beautiful parts of the country, but I realized that I enjoyed observing bird behavior more than just going out and finding as many birds as I could. My favorite jobs focused on one or two species and allowed me to spend a lot of time observing individual behavior and learning about their preferences. Working with lekking grouse is a natural step for someone who appreciates animal behavior, as grouse leks are dynamic and exciting atmospheres defined by complex suites of behavior. Prairie-chickens in particular provide this atmosphere due to the strange sounds they produce with specialized air sacs, their dance-like movements such as rapid foot stomping and energetic vertical jumps, along with the occasional all-out battle. I worked with prairie-chickens in Kansas and New Mexico and I realized that I wanted to study their behavior in greater depth. Entering a PhD program at The Ohio State University has given me the opportunity to design my own research which deals with aspects of prairie-chicken breeding behavior which have not received the scholarly attention they merit. Being in graduate school allows me to pursue my passion for fieldwork while helping to advance my career goal of working in the field of wildlife science and conservation. Every spring I look forward to the ability to leave the classroom behind for a couple of months and get up before dawn every morning so I can be at the edge of a lek with a front row seat for some of the most interesting bird behavior in the world.