My research interests lie in the fields of amphibian ecology and conservation. I am particularly captivated by the influences of metapopulation dynamics and landscape change on species persistence. My primary professional goal is to produce scientific knowledge that can enhance current and future amphibian conservation efforts. I also hope to strengthen the connection between the scientific and environmental management communities.
In May of 2011, I earned a B.A. in Biology from Kenyon College. My work at Kenyon sought to cultivate a better understanding of metabolic rate in a model organism, the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta), through the use of respirometry techniques. In the summer of 2010, I also performed an ecological study at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory testing the accuracy of predictions made by a mathematical model for plant species richness and metabolic rate distributions across a disturbed landscape.
Following my college graduation, I turned my attention towards environmental conservation. I interned for five months with the Eastern New York Chapter of The Nature Conservancy as an Ecological Management Assistant, and became inspired to continue my formal education in science and conservation. As a result, I began a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree program at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in the fall of 2012. Working with collaborators at the non-profit environmental organization Wild South, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Warren Wilson College, I conducted my master’s research on the use of artificial habitat by the eastern hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis). I received my MEM in May of 2014, although my involvement in hellbender research is ongoing.
I am excited to further develop my understanding of amphibian ecology as a Ph.D. student at the University of Missouri. As a new member of the Semlitsch Lab, I will be generating a management plan and population viability analysis for the ringed salamander (Ambystoma annulatum). By doing so, our lab hopes to encourage the persistence of the species before federal listing is required.
Sears, K.E., A.J. Kerkhoff, A. Messerman and H. Itagaki. 2012. Ontogenetic Scaling of Metabolism, Growth, and Assimilation: Testing Metabolic Scaling Theory with Manduca sexta Larvae. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 85(2): 159-73.