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Alexandria Nelson

Graduate Student | Department of Applied Ecology | North Carolina State University

2021 – 2022 Global Change Fellow

Statement of purpose:

I completed my BS and MS in Marine Biology at the University of California San Diego. As an undergraduate student, I studied host-parasite interactions in experimentally infected chickens, estuarine killifish, and marine clams. For my master’s thesis, I described the life stages of several new trematode parasite species through genetic sequencing and a series of experimental infections in the lab. I am now a first year PhD student in the NCSU Sustainable Health Ecology Lab with Dr. Skylar Hopkins. I’ve been passionate about parasite ecology for years, so for my doctoral dissertation, I decided to explore the use of parasites as indicators of climate change. I propose to be the first person to explore how climate change and other global change drivers affect broadscale parasite biodiversity patterns in North Carolina.

Description of research:

Counterintuitively, healthy food webs contain a variety of parasite species. For my dissertation, I am describing parasite communities across a climate gradient in North Carolina and identifying parasite species that can serve as bioindicators for healthy and changing aquatic habitats. By sampling freshwater hosts in northern versus southern NC counties, I will be able predict which parasite species might be lost from North Carolina with warming temperatures, and which might spread further through the state. By sampling snail hosts and downstream amphibian, reptile, and bird communities in protected, degraded, and restored aquatic habitats, I will be able to identify parasite species that managers could use as bioindicators of intact or restored habitats. My assessment of how host and parasite assemblages are changing over time and space will improve our understanding of how climate change affects our state’s freshwater ecosystems.

Contact Information:


Faculty Advisor:

Dr. Skylar Hopkins (Department of Applied Ecology, NCSU)

Meet Alexandria:

Watch a video developed by Alex describing her research as a global change fellow: