Animals have always fascinated me. This intrigue led to my first internship at the University of Miami during my senior year of high school where I collected sand fleas from beaches and counted them in the lab. It was a sweaty and tedious task, but it was also the start of my quantitative ecology skills. The internship was followed by others, including one at the International Shark Attack File where I researched shark attacks in Latin America. Soon after, I earned a B.S. in Environmental Science from the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Florida with a minor in Zoology. The highlights of these formative years were an oceanographic cruise, tagging bull sharks, and volunteering during cetacean strandings.
My graduate studies began at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University where I completed a Masters in Environmental Management (MEM) studying the feeding ecology of short-finned pilot whales and dwarf sperm whales. Concurrently, I completed lab and field research training in Florida with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. After completion of my MEM, I returned to the SNRE at the University of Florida for a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Ecology. My dissertation focused on the ecology and conservation of Amazon river dolphins in Brazil. In between my degrees, I worked for the Galveston Bay Foundation as Director of Community Programs. I developed field opportunities for citizens to learn ecology and conservation through hands-on experiences. As a result, extension and outreach became an integral part of my career. I readily share my science with both the scientific community and general audiences, and continue to develop field research opportunities for citizens.
After completing postdoctoral research, I kept affiliate positions at the University of Florida (Courtesy Assistant Professor) and the Galveston Bay Foundation (Research Scientist). In 2023, I became Director of Research for the Galveston Bay Foundation, and I now spend most of my time developing the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program. I also run Wildlife Research Partnerships (WRP) that I created to expand existing and new research projects and facilitate collaborations. I'm dedicated to researching conservation challenges involving close interactions between humans and aquatic mammals and I collaborate with diverse partners to create and execute projects that will tackle these issues.
A Little More About Me
I was born and raised in Colombia, South America, surrounded by the Andes mountains. When I was 17, my family immigrated to the United States. Since then, I've lived in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. After a nomadic first ten years of marriage, my husband and I settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. We live in the quirky and beautiful city of Asheville with our two children and our dog Lobita. When I'm not chasing my kids or working in my home office, I'm likely traveling, gardening, kickboxing, hiking, or writing.