Overview of Research Interests
During my term as an undergraduate biology student at the University of New Hampshire, I worked at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space with the Complex Systems Research Center. There I assisted in a research project investigating the potential impact of increased nitrogen deposition on northern forests. After four years, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from UNH with a degree in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology. Eager for more field experience, I worked as a research assistant at the Toolik Lake Long Term Ecological Research Station in Northern Alaska, where we looked at the ecological impacts of climate change.
As my academic background had been mostly ecological studies, this experience stimulated my interest in the mechanisms of global climate change and so I returned to UNH in 2001 for a master’s degree in earth science (concentrating in climate change). Concurrently, I worked as a research assistant with the Climate Change Research Center, where I examined historical climate records of the Northeastern United States. As a result of this work, I was co-author on several articles and presentations (Keim et al., 2003; Wake and Wilson, 2004; Keim et al., 2005). As a second year master’s student, I was the project coordinator for the Integrated Human Health and Air Quality Research project. In 2003, I finished my Masters degree and was lead author on two articles about the increase in emergency room admissions for asthma on days with elevated air pollution (Wilson et al., 2004; Wilson et al., 2005). After seven years in New Hampshire, I decided to broaden my experience with a two-year position as a community forestry agent in the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve in Southwest Morocco with the Moroccan Department of Water and Forests and the US Peace Corps (Bejbouji et al., 2006).
Throughout these experiences, two issues continually arose in my work and discussions. First, the environmental problems of our time are prodigious in spatial and temporal extent, crossing national borders and extending far into the future. Issues such as climate change, invasive species, pollution, and habitat degradation are changing our global environment at such an unprecedented rate that we scarcely grasp their full extent. And second, progressively massive quantities of environmental data are continuously collected. Remote sensing, automatic data collection, and increased instrument resolution have drastically increased the quantity of data available to help us understand and manage environmental problems. These two factors present challenges and opportunities to researchers that hope to understand and quantify these environmental issues. Thus we are faced with the need for new methods and modeling abilities to incorporate these data into analysis to identify solutions for long-term and large-scale environmental problems. Fortunately, novel statistical and computing methods are being developed that can incorporate these large and disparate data sets to answer complex environmental questions without over simplification.
Now I am working towards a doctoral degree in Ecology at the University of Connecticut where I am focusing on global change ecology (Ibáñez et al., 2007; Primack et al., 2007; Wilson et al., 2007). This project continues my research into climate-ecosystem interactions. In this project I propose to bring together field reports, climate model output, remotely sensed data, and prior ecological understanding to construct spatially explicit hierarchical Bayesian models. This type of interdisciplinary analysis is going to become more important as both data sources and environmental problems increase in complexity. I eventually want to work in an academic, public or non-profit research organization. In my career I hope to contribute novel methods for the analysis of multidimensional environmental issues, incorporating hierarchical statistical models to account for complexity and to fully characterize uncertainties.