My research involves determining population-level effects and behavioral changes of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in free-ranging white-tailed deer. From 2003-2009 deer were captured as fawns, anesthetized, marked with radio transmitters, tested for CWD and pregnancy status, and released. We followed deer throughout their lifespan by tracking radio collars and re-capturing all deer annually to re-test for CWD. Specific population parameters that we are investing are differences in reproduction, survival, and landscape use between CWD-positive and CWD-negative deer. We also are interested in determining major mortality causes by CWD-status and the population growth rate, which indicates if the population is stable, increasing, or decreasing in numbers through time and the magnitude that CWD affects each.
This research will provide base-line data on population and individual effects of CWD in wild deer. Ultimately we hope our research will result in management options to help curb the geographic spread of CWD and lower prevalence in CWD-affected populations.
In selecting which graduate school to attend, I considered the faculty and other graduate students I would work with as well as the classes that were available in my field to broaden my education. The University of Wyoming is home to high-quality graduate students, has excellent faculty, and a great selection of graduate-level courses that I felt would prepare me for my future career. I was most concerned with finding a graduate advisor that I could work well with, learn from daily, and who would push me hard academically and in my research. I found this at the University of Wyoming. Finally, I wanted a well-rounded experience with my research, including study design, grant writing, balancing my budget, autonomy in data collection and analyses, and support publishing results in journals and presenting at international conferences. I found those opportunities and more were readily available to me.
Upon completion of my doctoral degree I hope to attend veterinary school to acquire a DVM degree. My education will allow me to fulfill my career goal of securing a job as a wildlife veterinarian and wildlife disease ecologist for either a state or federal wildlife agency or an academic department. I hope to make a career training future wildlife disease professionals and investigating emerging wildlife diseases in free-ranging wildlife.
I would strongly recommend the University of Wyoming’s graduate program. Before you accept a position though be sure to meet with many faculty members, including prospective advisors and committee members, and speak to graduate students currently enrolled in the program of your choice. Make sure that you will have the opportunities to get the experiences that make graduate school more than just another three-four years of classes. Make sure that you fully understand your responsibilities and make clear to your future advisor what you want to get out of graduate school. Finally, I think it is always a good idea to visit the campus and town to be sure it is a good fit for you.