How does thermosensation evolve? As thermal environments shift, how do sensory systems adapt? I study this question by investigating TRP channels, a family of ion channels than can function as molecular thermosensors by turning temperature stimuli into electrical signals. I combine transcriptomics, genomics, bioinformatics, electrophysiology, fieldwork, and behavior studies to answer these questions across integrated levels of organization in both vertebrates and invertebrates.

Arctic codfishes

Some areas of the Arctic Ocean are warming up to seven fold the rate of the global average. Warming endangers key subsistence and commericial fisheries and fish populations. I am studying the evolution of TRP channel sequences, expression, and structures in different thermosensory tissues across Arctic codfishes that vary in their preferred thermal environments. This study is funded by the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs postdoctoral research fellowship.

Notothenioid fishes

Notothenioids are a suborder of fishes that make up the primary fish fauna of the Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica and generally stays between -1.9 and +1 degree Celsius all year, and has been this cold for several million years. I am investigating how TRP channels have evolved to sense ecologically relevant temperatures for the Southern Ocean and comparing evolution of these channels in species that have secondarily adapted to temperate environments. This study is funded by the Fulbright Commission and will be conducted at the Universidad Austral de Chile and in the Chilean Antarctic.
(Left) Harpagifer antarcticus, the Antarctic spiny plunderfish

Texas leaf-cutter ants

The Texas leaf-cutter ant (Atta texana) is the most northerly distributed leaf-cutter ant, but the distribution isn't limited by the ants' own temperature tolerance. Instead, it is limited by the cold sensitivity of the fungus the ants cultivate in gardens within their colonies. These ants have been shown to be behaviorally sensitive to the narrow range in temperatures at which the fungus grows optimally, but what is the molecular basis of this temperature sensitivity, and how has that changed as the Texas leaf-cutters have expanded their range northward?
(Left) An entrance to an Atta texana colony

Previous work


See my google scholar or download a copy of my most recently uploaded CV.


As a scientist, I sometimes feel conflicted about the role of researchers in publicizing their science and engaging with the public. Doing the science is a full time job, and the skills that make someone a good scientist do not entirely overlap with the skills involved in being a good communicator. I recognize, however, that with the current scientific system there is value for both the public and the scientist when communication between these groups increases. Below is a summary of some of my efforts to increase that communication.

Science Under the Stars

At UT Austin I helped organize a series of monthly science talks called Science Under the Stars between 2017 and 2022. Events are free, open to the public, and held outdoors at Brackenridge Field Laboratory. The speakers are biology graduate students who share work ranging from bat behavior to tropical tree evolution to flu epidemiology and sustainable gardening. Events also include kids activities, snacks, natural history displays, and tours of the field lab.

Austin Science Advocates

Austin Science Advocates was a group of graduate students in the College of Natural Sciences that discussed science policy news, conducted deep dives into particular issues, practiced skills related to discussing and debating science policy issues, and hosted guest speakers. Check out the website archive for more information.
For example, in 2017, we testified for the state board of education while they debated streamlining of the K-12 science curriculum standards in Texas.

Science Communication Training

A summary of courses or programs in which I've participated and can recommend for developing communication skills:


If you are a scientist, you know academia is often touted as a meritocracy, but systemically prevents women and other marginalized people from participating due to inherent biases, a lack of representation, and fewer available resources. I am working to combat these inequities with the efforts below. Please contact me if you have questions or concerns about these projects.

Published work and press

  • Kelly Wallace and I published a paper proposing a systems change framework for evaluating academic equity efforts. The paper was published in the academic practice section of Ecology & Evolution
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article on some of the work discussed below in 2018

Climate survey

I organized a climate survey to empirically assess the experiences of the Integrative Biology Department community while at UT Austin. We conducted the survey in spring 2018, then revised it with assistance from the UT Sociology Department and established it as an annual survey initially in fall 2020. Please feel free to download and use the survey in your own workplace.

Other work

  • We have passed a Graduate Student Bill of Rights for students whose professors are associated with the IB Department
  • I organized a Bystander Intervention Training with Marian Trattner and BeVocal and Personnel Management training for members of the Integrative Biology Department
  • I established a Quiet/Lactation room in Patterson Labs (PAT 339)
  • We re-signed the single stall bathrooms in the department as gender neutral (1st floor PAT, 3rd floor BIO)


I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the lab of Dr. Chris Cheng. Our lab is associated with the School of Integrative Biology. In 2022, I received my PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Texas at Austin in the lab of Dr. Harold Zakon. In 2016, I received my Master’s of Science at the University of British Columbia, where I was co-supervised by Dr. Bill Milsom and Dr. Doug Altshuler. I was also an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia and worked in the Milsom lab. I grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I used to help my dad trap arctic ground squirrels and catch wood frogs. Now I live in Urbana, Illinois. I use she/her/hers pronouns.

Contact Me

Questions about any of this work? Can’t access the papers? Contact me!