When I meet new people and mention that I work with invasive spiders and their behaviors, I am often asked, “Why spiders?”. As a former arachnophobe, I understand that sentiment! It took a transformative college course at Berkeley in spider biology (yay, pedagogy!) to cure my spider fears and allow me to appreciate how fascinating these misunderstood animals are. What surprised me the most about spiders were their behaviors, many of which seem alien and taboo to human cultures (Cannibalism? Matriphagy? Auto-castration? Cool!). Somehow Star Trek and musings about extraterrestrial life figure into this equation, but some things are too nerdy to go into detail about.
Since this undergraduate course in spider biology, I have had the opportunity to work with spiders in a variety of countries (French Polynesia, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Netherland Antilles, St. Kitts and Nevis, Taiwan, Spain, South Africa) and contexts (biogeography, modeling, behavior). I graduated from the spider behavior lab of Dr. Susan Riechert at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where I studied the distribution of animal personality types across the non-native range expansion of an orbweaver.
I have now returned to my agroecological roots and work for the Citrus Research and Education Center of the University of Florida. I am a postdoc in Dr. Lauren Diepenbrock’s lab in the Department of Entomology and Nematology. I am interested in how landscape factors like hedgerow connectivity influence natural enemies of citrus pests, especially the invasive Asian citrus psyllid which vectors the devastating huanglongbing disease in citrus.
Outside of academics, I enjoy traveling and playing board games. I love to discuss food (where to find the nearest uni?!), the recent entomophagy movement (I approve), and Harry Potter (Hagrid apparently didn’t consider the ecological implications of releasing non-native acromantulas in the Forbidden Forest) at length. I’m also your dude if you want to discuss board games with scientifically relevant themes and mechanics.
I am very grateful to the following funding sources :