Updates & New Research

Hello! It’s been quite some time since I’ve last written a blog post. So here’s some quick updates since my last post in winter 2017. You can start to expect more regular posts and my newest research adventure progresses.

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 with a Master of Environmental Studies (created my own concentration and it’s Ecology). I then started my doctoral degree program in fall of 2017 at Drexel University in Environmental Science. I’m still at Drexel, and recently changed research projects to studying the biodiversity and human use of urban cemeteries in Philadelphia. Before that I was working on biogeography and ecology of Jamaican land snails. While I still care about the research I’m finishing up in that subject area, I’m super excited to be working on this cemetery biodiversity project.

How the heck did I get into that you ask? (Since nearly everyone I tell does.) Well, it started in summer of 2019 when I was testing some field methods for land snails in the Philadelphia area. I was going to Jamaica later that year, and needed to test out some methodology that I would be employing in the field there. I tried to pick places in Philly where I thought slugs and snails would be and that included some local parks, and cemeteries. In Jamaica, you can find snails pretty much everywhere. There’s over 500 species of indigenous land snails in Jamaica, but here in Philly there are far fewer and more difficult to find (and it’s usually not indigenous species that you find). So, I was spending time in these cemeteries looking for mollusks and not really finding any with shells – which is what I needed for the Jamaica research. I ended up finding snails in the suburbs and was able to test those methods there. However, I couldn’t let go of the idea that it would be really cool to understand the biodiversity of urban cemeteries in Philadelphia. I also was curious about how cemeteries were being utilized by humans as urban green spaces rather than just places of mourning, burial, and death. So that’s how I got to this project today!

Malaise trap at Mt. Moriah Cemetery in June 2021 (photo credit: Heather Kostick).

I started developing this research in late 2020, and really began sussing out protocols and literature in early 2021. Now that we’re here, it’s almost summer officially and I am conducting field work on urban cemeteries. I’m collecting data on trees, herbaceous plants, birds, and invertebrates (insects, arthropods, mollusks). I’ll be periodically writing up posts for here and other places, and will share updates and progress as I’m able. I’m looking forward to collecting all this data and being able to possibly begin to understand how biodiversity at these sites is impacted by human management and use. Stay tuned!