• Area of Study Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution

Most six-year-olds want to visit amusement parks. For me, however, there was no better place in the world than the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. My young mind was obsessed with nature, and when my parents would ask me what I wanted to do on a weekend, invariably the museum was the answer. In a pulse of inspiration, I dreamed of being a paleontologist and working at the La Brea Tar Pits. Like many other pulses in young natural systems, however, my passion for nature was short-lived, leached away by the inert suburban rainwaters that surrounded me. As with any other equilibrium process, my glut of passion for nature, not shared by the masses around me, was quickly drained until I maintained the same trace level of concern for nature that was characteristic of the bedrock of my hometown.

Fortunately for me, however, cycles are a reality of life. A fortuitous stint in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Washington State bonded me to people who adored nature, and my sink of passion for natural science was quickly refilled and overflowing again, like it had been in my youth. I knew I needed to drastically alter the focus of my career from that which my first degree in accounting and finance afforded me. Consequently, as I transitioned into teaching middle school science in Newark, NJ, I began the long process of obtaining a second degree, this time in biology, from Rutgers University. Ultimately, field courses in plant biology, three months backpacking through Patagonia, and fieldwork in the Canadian Rockies fixed my zeal for nature into a permanently immobilized love of plants and plant ecology.

I joined Dr. Pamela Templer’s lab in 2013, driven by a profound desire to understand the way that plants and soil regulate the biogeochemical nutrient cycles of nitrogen and carbon, and how those cycles are themselves coupled and influence one another. The years that I spent teaching in the metropolitan centers of Newark, NJ and New York City have also given me a keen interest in urban ecology, sustainability, environmental justice, and education. I am looking forward to designing research that marries biogeochemical cycling to urban sustainability, with an imperative to reduce the footprint of our urban centers and make them more livable for humans and the rest of the resident biota. The strength of the biogeochemistry faculty and a true collaborative spirit and wide range of disciplines among all natural science faculty at Boston University lay a strong foundation for me from which to build my career as a scientist. I am honored to be in Dr. Templer’s lab and a member of such a dynamic and motivated university community.

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