Ask me anything. 🐟
Your Scientist ID:
I went to high school (secondary school) at Bishop Moore Catholic High School in Orlando, Florida. I completed a degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA. I'm finishing my PhD in Zoology at Trinity College Dublin.
B.Sc. Biological Sciences, M.Sc. Environmental Science
I've worked a lot of places, including Universal Studios in Orlando, FL (where I worked on the Spiderman ride and ran a log-flume ride) and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
I'm a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin. I also teach SCUBA in my spare time.
About Me: American aquatic scientist preaching about the positive side of parasites.
I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida 🇺🇸. I got hooked on aquatic ecology (studying lakes, rivers, and the oceans) during secondary school and then was infected by a true love for parasites during my studies at University.
I am a scuba diving instructor, I love to cycle and hike, and I LOVE roller coasters. I also grow my own pineapples, occasionally dog sled, and take care of exotic pets, like geckos. I love Irish Rugby, American football, and I’m trying to learn the rules of hurling (it’s so complicated!).
My Work: I study parasites that control the behaviour of their hosts.
My research focuses on the knock-on effects of parasites in their ecosystems. Most people think parasites are bad, and they can be, but they also do a lot of things to keep nature working! I study parasites that hijack their hosts’ brains to increase their own health and keep their own life cycle going. These parasites have huge impacts in their environments and can actually help stabilize their ecosystems, keeping them running even when disturbances happen. I run experiments in lakes and rivers to see how these parasites work and what hosts do in their environments when they have parasites. I also check to see how these relationships work when the environment gets hotter.
I work in the field, in the lab, and on the computer to check what our results mean. You can watch me explain my research here:
My Typical Day: For parasitologists- no two days are the same. Most days I cycle to work and then I'm either in the field, the lab, or on my computer.
No two days are the same for me!
Some days, I’m out in the field, checking how the rivers and lakes are changing over time. We also sometimes set up experiments in the field.
Some days, I’m in the lab. We set up controlled experiments to check what happens to hosts when they have parasites at different temperatures.
Some days, I’m on the computer, running simulations or statistical analyses to see what our results might mean in the future.
Other days, I get to teach, talk to students, and do outreach!
What I'd do with the money: I would use the money to set up a science pen-pal program for scientists in Ireland to write to students.
Many students don’t get the chance to interact with real scientists on a personal level. I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here does a great job of bridging the gap between scientists and students, but a more long-term outreach option is possible. I believe that the Letters to a PreScientist model (http://www.prescientist.org/) could be adapted for use in Ireland. I would aim to pair students with scientists for a year-long letter writing project. During this time, students and scientists would get to know each other on a personal level and make meaningful mentoring connections. The money would go towards postage, letter supplies for the schools, and any necessary Garda vetting.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, curious, excitable.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Taylor Swift, she's the best! 🐍
What's your favourite food?
Burritos! I love spicy food.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I once got to go on the tallest rollercoaster in the world, Kingda Ka. It was terrifying and amazing!
What did you want to be after you left school?
A doctor, since I like taking care of people.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I talked WAY too much during class.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Science and history. I love to know how and why things came to be.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
I got to work on rivers that flow off of a volcano in Iceland!
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I had a really great science teacher who one day brought in a dead snake he found for us to dissect. I couldn't believe how many parasites there were and how cool the inside of a snake is.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
A historian or a teacher.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would like to be rich (who wouldn't), I would love to be able to keep all my friends and family healthy, and I would want to own a swimming pool.
Tell us a joke.
A dangerous parasite walks into a bar. The bartender says, "we don't serve your kind here." The parasite replies, "well you're not a very good host."