Where are you from?
I was born in Moose Factory, Ontario. I completed high school just a few metres from the shores of Lake Nipissing in North Bay. After many years living in boreal shield country, I moved to the Prairies in Brandon, MB, to complete a BSc in zoology and math. I completed my PhD at the University of Exeter in southern England and then went on to further studies at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Those early years ‘in the boonies,’ combined with many years studying in ‘the old world,’ were formative for my subsequent career in ecology, evolution and conservation.
When did you come to the University and what do you do here?
I am a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. I am in my 24th fall semester at U of L! I teach senior-level courses in Invertebrate Biology, Field Biology and Biology of Parasitism. I periodically teach junior-level classes in Organismal Diversity and in Environmental Science. Research in my lab focuses on the ecology and epidemiology of parasites and diseases of wildlife. Through lab and field studies, we try to understand how and why a larval parasite turns local ants into zombies, how a new, emerging parasite is devastating local minnow populations, how a virus of local salamanders is contributing to the loss of amphibian biodiversity in Canada, and how a parasite that resides in the brains of local fish impacts their host’s ability to see, smell, think, and move.
What’s the best part of your job?
I get my biggest sense of career satisfaction when I can ignite a spark of interest in my students, both undergraduate and graduate, and then follow where that spark leads them. I revel in their successes. Our relatively small class sizes and intimate research atmosphere can make those sparks happen. Furthermore, I am a committed ‘prairie-o-phile.’ I love the light, the landscape, and the easy access we have to incredible habitats — even right outside the doors of campus. I can finish work on an October day like today and then be sitting in a duck blind with my kids just a short drive later. Great people in a great place — what a privilege!
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
My brother and I had an unfortunate experience with a rabid fox one fateful day in North Bay. Preventative treatment at that time involved three weeks of daily injections. It was awful! Tim and I endured ruthless teasing at school from friends that were sure we were showing the frenzied and delirious behaviours that are characteristic of full-blown rabies. Yet for two budding biologists, an enduring message from the encounter was that the nature of that virus/host relationship was fantastically complex and intriguing. Some 40 years after this encounter, Tim and I completed a textbook entitled Ecology and Diversity of Animal Parasites with Cambridge University Press. Both of us use this text in our senior classes.