Author: Melanie Torres, PhD candidate studying amphibians
"I want to learn the skills to effectively communicate both my research and how amazing amphibians are to even the greatest skeptic. With the right skill set, I hope to instill a sense of fascination and inspiration to help our semi-aquatic friends to as many people as possible."
So, you might ask yourself, how does one become a scientist? For me, it started with my passion and curiosity for our world's creatures. I have always loved animals, and I sought a career path where I could work with them. I graduated with a BS in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from the Pennsylvania State University in 2012. Shortly after, I signed onto a project surveying frogs and salamanders in north-central Pennsylvanian State Forests. Growing up, I loved catching all sorts of amphibians, so I found such fulfillment getting paid to do my favorite childhood activity! During my time on this project, a paper was published, titled "Trends in Amphibian Occupancy in the United States", that opened my eyes to the plight of amphibians globally. Here it is if you want to check it out.
Essentially, amphibians are undergoing global population declines, and many species will become extinct if nothing is done to help them. I want to keep amphibians around so future generations can experience the same joys that I did growing up - whether that be catching bullfrogs in ponds or flipping rocks on the hunt for a slimy salamander.
I determined that I can help the critters I love by pursuing a career researching them. My research endeavors are twofold: (1) to study the factors influencing regional amphibian population declines, and (2) to ensure that my research can be easily applied by managers for amphibian conservation efforts.
I recently defended my MS thesis in Watershed Sciences from Murray State University, where I was working on a model predicting areas where an amphibian-killing fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), could be found in west-central Colorado. For the past four summers, I was based out of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, where I was primarily working with Bd data from Arizona Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma mavortium nebulosum, top and right) and the Colorado state-endangered boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas). For my PhD, I will be studying the range of available resources and ability for amphibians to access those resources across spatial scales.
I decided to improve my scientific communication skills at the start of my PhD because I have been frequently approached and asked about my work. In most cases, people are curious and interested with what I do. However, I have been met with disgust enough times for it to bother me. I think amphibians are incredible, beautiful creatures that are severely misunderstood. Therefore, I want to learn the skills to effectively communicate both my research and how amazing amphibians are to even the greatest skeptic. With the right skill set, I hope to instill a sense of fascination and inspiration to help our semi-aquatic friends to as many people as possible.
Thank you, and please leave comments if you have any questions.
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