Over the years, I have been involved in several science communication endeavors. I was a tour guide at the San Diego Zoo when I first realized I had a passion for conservation education. I educated guests on animal behavior, ecology, and conservation efforts to ignite a passion for wildlife. One zoo guest told me that I had inspired her to become a wildlife biologist. I realized my words could impact people’s thoughts and actions, and wanted to continue to inspire people to care for the natural world. During my senior year at NC State, I was invited to be a Teaching Assistant (TA) for Ecology. I fostered an in-depth learning experience of ecological field techniques and theories for fellow undergraduates. I learned that semester how to communicate science to others, and how to make difficult concepts easy to understand.Later, during my senior capstone project, I worked to quantify NC State students’ beliefs on wildlife conservation in captivity before and after being provided information on zoo conservation initiatives. Overall, students initially found it acceptable to help injured wildlife, but unacceptable to keep animals in captivity indefinitely. The average student’s opinion changed after learning more about zoo conservation initiatives to believing it acceptable to house animals in captivity indefinitely for educational purposes. It was with this finding that I noticed the considerable gap between conservation needs and public knowledge.
This gap was illuminated even further when I went to Mali, Africa to teach students English and foster international relations. I learned here how Malians knew little about environmental policy; Mariatu, a college student from the largest city in Mali, had never even heard the phrase ‘wildlife conservation’. Conservation initiatives have inadequate support in part because people do not know they exist, and undeveloped nations are even less informed than most. Therefore, my goal as a conservation ecologist will be to inform unreached communities of the need for wildlife conservation.
As of late, I am the head Project Coordinator for a large-scale citizen science camera trapping wildlife survey, Candid Critters. I inspire a passion for science in unreached rural communities and provide guidance to more than 3000 citizen science volunteers. I also conduct education initiatives across multiple platforms. I have gained over 1,800 followers on the project’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, and created two educational webinars viewed by 256 project participants. I wrote 13 blogs for the project shared on social media, the project website, and email blasts to 5,200 citizen scientists. I have taught wildlife science to high school students at GreenSTEM, Envirothon, and multiple public libraries across North Carolina. Candid Critters has answered large-scale ecological questions with citizen scientists, and I am working with Dr. Roland Kays to publish the project’s protocol so other researchers can learn from our successful endeavors and refrain from making the same mistakes. This paper is in its final draft and will be submitted to the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Journal in December 2019.
When I walk through my local natural science museum, I am astounded how exhibits blurred the line between science and education. I hope to do the same by becoming a Curator of Research at a zoo, non-profit, or museum who promotes species conservation research that can be shared with the public in real-time. I will use an interdisciplinary, community-driven approach for my research and teaching endeavors to promote an efficient outlet through which meaningful discoveries can be made and shared. I will especially concentrate on science education in undeveloped nations, which is currently poorly promoted as I witnessed in Africa. Receiving this fellowship will allow me to conduct research critical to my dissertation to promote discussions on human-wildlife conflict and a conservation mindset within unreached communities. In the end, I will inspire science professionals and community members alike to join the fight for conservation.
I have formally administered three oral presentations. My most recent presentation was at a conference discussing citizen science, and I have also presented a camera trapping workshop at the recent 2019 Annual GreenSTEM Series. My first formal presentation was to North Carolina Zoo staff on research conducted on shade use by captive elephants.
I have presented research posters at multiple conferences and symposiums. Click on a poster below to learn more about these presentations.
selected Blog posts
I have written dozens of blog posts and newsletters over the years for science communication purposes. I have highlighted a few of my favorite blogs below, and more can be found at www.nccandidcritters.org/blog/
Videos and webinars
I have starred and made short appearances in several videos and webinars related to scientific research endeavors.