Island Mice Project

Gregory Backus

Before I came to North Carolina, I received my Bachelor’s degree in biology at Bard College. Upon arriving here, I began studying population and community ecology in the Biomathematics Graduate Program. In particular, I am interested in modeling how changes in certain populations of organisms can have large effects on other species in the ecosystem, whether they interact with them directly or not. This involves cases where the eradication of an invasive species can cause population reduction of endemic species that the eradication was intending to protect. Additionally, I am interested in modeling how mate choice could alter the outcome of managing house mice through genetic modification. Especially if this mate choice is genetically linked, sexual selection might lead to a resistance of this eradication technique over time.

Caroline Leitschuh

My interests in reproduction in mammals and a strong desire to do applied biology led me to the GES Center at NCSU. From my home program of Zoology, I study the reproductive behaviors of house mice from the Farallon Islands. I want to characterize these behaviors both for aiding in invasive house mouse control as well as for a better understanding of how the mice are able to adapt quickly to new environments. My future research also includes studying anxiety-related behaviors in introduced house mice from different islands with various types of stressors. I hope to identify genetic markers associated with anxiety-related behaviors, which has potential relevance to human research on depression and anxiety disorders. My long-term goals are to pursue a career in science communication. I believe in presenting scientific research in interesting, accessible formats.

I have a background in field research working with ground squirrels and songbirds through Beloit College, where I got by B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavioral Biology. Much of my interest in working in communications comes from my experiences working as a forester with AmeriCorps after completing my undergraduate studies. I find interdisciplinary work inspiring, and hope to use my training to inspire others to be interested in biology and conservation.

Andrew Ludvik

I received a Bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and have worked multiple internships and jobs in the Wildlife and Natural Resources fields. As a student in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Program here at NC State, I’m interested in exploring different genetic modification techniques for invasive species management. My interest in NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society Program stems from experiences through my academic and working career, both domestically and abroad.

I’ve spent time in the Galapagos Islands studying island biogeography where I learned about the challenges and difficulties invasive species can pose on the archipelago’s ecosystems. My time as an intern for the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge also exposed me to the difficulties of current, and often crude, methods of trying to limit the spread of invasive species on that refuge. This has inspired me to explore new, alternative methods that may offer more efficient and effective ways to halt the spread of invasive species. Although I am intrigued by the potential benefits genetic modification offers to the field of Conservation Biology, I realize the importance of understanding the impacts these techniques may pose to the environment.

Elizabeth Pitts

As a PhD student in NC State’s Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media program, I study technical communication, participatory knowledge production, and civic engagement. Currently, I’m investigating what it means to communicate ethically about emerging biotechnologies, and how to facilitate public involvement in regulatory decision-making.

My academic research stems from a long-term interest in the accessibility of knowledge. Before enrolling at NC State, I spent more than a decade producing strategic communications for institutions including the White House and the US Department of Education. I have also served as an adjunct professor at University of Maryland University College and as a writer for the Pew Charitable Trusts. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Georgetown University.

Megan Serr

Before I began graduate school at North Carolina State University I taught high school science, as well as anatomy and physiology to nursing students at ECPI University. I hold a Bachelors of Science degree from California State University San Bernardino, and a Masters of Science from The University of Nebraska. My background in biology is broad, and I enjoy doing both lab and field research. Currently my focus is on reproductive behavior and mate choice in house mice. I am particularly interested in the ecological and behavioral aspects of wild and lab mice, as well as how we humans perceive these mice. As a science educator, I have long been interested in interdisciplinary studies and the social dimensions of science. Having an inter-disciplinary background will also provide me with the tools required to be an effective researcher and professor.

Rene Xavier Valdez

As a student in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Program my focus is in the human dimensions of wildlife management. Specifically I consider how conservation practitioners and other stakeholders consider, plan for, and manage invasive species. I am also interested in exploring how conservation practitioners and managers would view genetically modified organisms, which are being specifically developed for conservation purposes.

I began to develop a multi-disciplinary background as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University while majoring in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences and minoring in English-Rhetoric. My masters’ research was performed at Stephen F. Austin State University with research focuses in forestry, safety, and outdoor education.

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IGERT Cohort