I grew up in Lovettsville, VA, in a rural bubble nestled in the tri-state area. My closest neighbors were the crayfish in the creek, and I spent my youth scrambling around the great outdoors. When it came time to apply to college, the only thing that made sense was to study Wildlife Science at the closest land-grant university; Virginia Tech. One application, early decision, all the eggs in VT’s basket. Lucky for me, this rash decision paved the way to a challenging and rewarding academic career. I got my degree in wildlife, and even got to travel to New Zealand for a year to study forestry. Things were looking good.
Entering the world of wildlife conservation with a bachelor’s degree was a rude awakening. I collected an array of experiences working with all types of creatures, and got to see crevices of the wild west that I never knew were there. However, field work was sparse, temporary, and nomadic. Upward mobility was impossible. I was living out of a truck, and wanted a shower and a bed. The stability of graduate school and a steady stipend called like a siren. After an exhausting application process (ya’ll know what I’m talking about), I traveled back home and started a Ph.D program with the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech.
Forest Entomology was the niche that I had been looking for. All the ecological components that had driven me to wildlife conservation were preserved, jobs were available, and man oh man insects are COOL! Since re-enrolling at VT in 2012, I have been working towards a Ph.D while studying a tiny lady beetle called Scymnus coniferarum. This research introduced me to the world of biological control, through an effort to control the hemlock woolly adelgid. The quest to obtain the elusive Ph.D has taught me about outreach, data analyses, research methodology, and the importance of equality in the sciences.
I am on track to finish my degree by spring, 2017, and presently re-entering the dreaded job search. I am stir-crazy in my quiet, cozy mountain town and ready to start my career!