Global Change Fellow Alumna | Department of Biological Sciences | North Carolina State University
2015 – 2016 Global Change Fellow
Where are they now?
Erica is currently working as a prairie ecologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Statement of Purpose:
I am a PhD student working with Dr. Nick Haddad at North Carolina State University. My research interests lie in understanding what causes threatened and endangered species to be rare, and how to use ecological knowledge of species and their habitats to create effective conservation strategies. I work closely with land managers to develop and implement habitat restoration plans and to evaluate how restoration actions affect target populations.
Description of Research:
For endangered species that occupy low-lying islands, the ultimate threat of climate change is eventual sea level rise. However, other climate change related threats, such as changes in precipitation patterns, might negatively affect populations before they are swallowed by the sea. Prior to starting my PhD at NC State, I developed abundance estimates for the endangered Miami blue butterfly, a species confined to low-lying islands in the Florida Keys. In the course of that work, we discovered that adult butterfly abundances were highly correlated with precipitation patterns. We observed high butterfly densities after periods of consistent rain and low butterfly densities during dry spells. As part of my dissertation research, I am interested in further exploring this relationship by incorporating projections of future precipitation regimes into a population viability analysis for Miami blue butterflies. This research directly relates to SECSC’s Science Theme 4 “Ecological Research and Modeling” by incorporating climate change scenarios into models of population dynamics and abundance for a southeastern endangered species.