What aspect of genetics and/or genomics most interests you?
I find genetics to be so interesting. It is amazing to study the code for life on earth and to learn more about this burgeoning field. I am especially interested in the effects of urbanization and human induced stress on organisms. I hope to use my genetics knowledge to help mitigate our impacts on animals and ecosystems, and help endangered or vulnerable species in this changing world.
What (or Who) influenced you to go into your field of study?
I have always wanted to become a biologist, but I am lucky to have two parents who are very supportive of me and have always pushed me to achieve my goals. Through many trips to different beautiful locations around the country where we would hike, snorkel, look for wildlife, or visit a zoo or aquarium, my parents guided my passion for nature and animals. Three other people that influenced me to become a biologist were Dr. Darren Proppe, Dr. Randall DeJong and Dr. David Dornbos, all professors at my alma mater, Calvin University. These mentors encouraged me throughout college and helped me to discover which areas of biology I was most interested in, as they guided me through research and classes. Finally, my wonderful wife is always encouraging me as I continue down this path.
Who or what do you hope benefits from your research?
I hope that my research will help organisms to thrive in an anthropocentric world. I also hope that with my research, humans can learn how to better share the world with organisms, as opposed to our current path where human actions are causing population declines, stress in many different species, and invasions of nonnative species.
How can your research be used to inform decision makers (e.g. policy makers, resource managers, health practitioners, K12 educators, etc etc)?
In my most recent undergraduate publication, I looked at the stress response of tree swallows to drone flying. With drones only recently becoming widespread, this research can help policy makers make decisions on their safe usage and how they might affect organisms in the surrounding area. My hope is that I can continue research that looks at the effects that humans have on ecosystems and organisms so we can learn how to share the earth and inform decision makers on policies to protect these ecosystems and organisms.
What do you think is the most pressing issue or problem in your field of study?
I think the most pressing issue in my field of study is people’s lack of care and realization of their impact on the planet. Many people do not understand how big of a footprint they have on Earth, and how even small actions can negatively affect organisms in big ways. We need to help people realize that we have only one Earth, and even the smallest changes people make can help us protect it.
How do you expect the GG Scholars program to impact your work?
The GG Scholars program will be a huge catalyst for my research. I am already learning many different genetic tools that I can apply in conservation or invasive species research. I have also had the opportunity to interact with people from different concentrations and with different expertise that will be useful for collaborations in the future and learning new tools.
How would you describe your research interests to a 3rd grader?
I look at how humans cause stress to animals and what we can do to avoid hurting them.
What’s your dream job?
I think my dream job would be becoming a professor, where I can mentor other scientists and lead research on human impacts on different organisms. If I became a professor, it would be my goal to motivate and mentor my students in the same way that my undergraduate professors guided me. I always hope to be involved with research where I can go out in the field and study animals to help us better understand them and how to live with them.