Assistant Professor, IACUC Chair
Wilson Hall 212
B.S., University of Rhode Island (2004)
Ph.D., University of Rhode Island (2012)
Joined Westfield State University in 2016
Evolutionary Functional Morphology and Biomechanics of Sharks, Skates and Rays
My personal philosophy is to better understand the intimate link between environmental and human health to improve natural resources stewardship and, by proxy, the lives of people and the organisms that rely upon them. To fulfill this goal, I work to inspire young scholars through teaching, research, and service that facilitate creativity, respect, responsibility and inclusiveness. As an educator, I am motivated by my desire to increase scientific literacy and inspire life-long interest in the biological sciences in non-science majors and the general public, as well as train biology majors for careers in research, teaching, medicine, and policy. I prioritize teaching methods that illustrate the broad application of scientific concepts, incorporate active learning, and reveal interdisciplinary connections while encouraging respectful debate and independent research.
My general research examines evolutionary transitions in vertebrate form and how form promotes physiological performance within a specific environment. I am particularly interested in research on the form of feeding and locomotor systems, for they govern the types of food (resources) that can be used by various organisms, along with the ability to move and navigate through environments. Such systems are directly linked to fitness, and therefore should be under heavy selection for specific feeding and locomotor features that facilitate the capture and consumption of an organism’s natural prey, species distribution, habitat use, foraging ability, mate location and predator avoidance. I primarily work with fish, more specifically elasmobranch fish or what you may know as sharks, skates and rays.
Currently research in my lab is looking at the anatomy and biomechanics of the walking appendage of a local marine fish, the striped sea-robin; the relationship between body shape, environment and prey preference of stingrays; the biomechanical relationship between tooth and jaw function in sharks; the anatomy and fucntional morphology of the feeding apparatus in Atlantic angel sharks; and the biomechanical performance of shark jaw muscles during prey capture and processing.
If you are student that is interested in getting your hands dirty with actual biological research, then come talk to me. My door is always open.
I am a professionally trained biological illustrator as well as a biologist, which provides me with unique insight into anatomical structure and function because, I am trained to indentify fine details of anything I observe visually, not just the details that are immediately most obvious. As described by Vogt and Magnussen (2007), untrained individuals have a tendency to focus primarily on most noticeable features when making visual observations. At a glance, I can visualize structures in three-dimensional space and interpret potential function. I can then take that information and render it using multiple types of visualization media to convey the connection between structural and functional concepts. I teach all students this technique, as artistic skill is not a prerequisite to mastering this useful technique. Reproducing the anatomical structures artistically and accurately reinforces the special relationships among them more effectively than traditional identification and memorization
BIOL0128 Organismal, Evolutionary and Ecological Biology (Spring)
BIOL0277 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy (Fall)
BIOL0237 Human Anatomy and Physiology I (Fall)
BIOL0239 Human Anatomy and Physiology II (Spring)
BIOL0377 Research in Animal Form and Function (Spring)