Thanks for stopping by.
About our research team
Our research team values collaboration, sharing expertise, seeing new perspectives, and having fun while doing great science. Our projects often center on conservation decision-making, disease ecology, and/or herpetology but we work across systems and questions. Depending on the project, we use a variety of approaches (e.g., field, lab, simulation, computational) to answer questions.
We strive to cultivate a lab culture where we can support one another and grow as scientists and people. If you're interested in joining our research team, check out the information on these pages (especially the Grad School Info page, for prospective graduate students) and then be in touch!
January 2022 - The WERL welcomes Anila, a new MS student, who will be conducting research on spotted turtles!
December 2022 - Brittany Mosher and partner Gabe welcomed their first child, Iris.
September 2022 - Destini Acosta's research was featured by Lake Champlain Sea Grant: https://www.uvm.edu/seagrant/news/spiny-softshell-turtle-nesting-habitat-restoration-lake-champlain-shores. Way to go, Destini!
September 2022 - Lab member Riley Mummah and partner Bryant welcomed their first child, Emerson. Congratulations, Riley and Bryant! Welcome, Emerson!
September 2022 - Congratulations to Matt, Destini, Reed, Val, and Nicole on excellent field seasons! Many thanks for all of your hard work this summer.
September 2022 - The WERL welcomes Carolyn, a new MS student, who will be conducting research on coyote diets!
August 2022 - Brittany went to the field with collaborators Luke Groff (Vermont Fish and Wildlife) and Kiley Briggs (The Orianne Society) to film a spot with WCAX on Vermont's rarest turtle - the spotted turtle - and a recent grant we received. Check it out here: https://www.wcax.com/2022/08/02/wildlife-watch-scientists-try-spot-rare-spotted-turtle/
August 2022 - Lab member Reed Scott competed in the Vermont Sun Triathlon - his first race post-hip surgery. Congratulations, Reed!
August 2022 - Lab members Matt Gorton and Elise Edwards are presenting their research on wildlife crossing structures and northern cricket frog declines at the NEPARC meeting. Way to go, team!
April 2022: Lab member Matt Gorton and wife Hannah welcomed their first child, Charlotte. Congratulations, Matt and Hannah, and welcome, Charlotte!
Here are the wonderful people that make our lab unique
Brittany Mosher, Ph.D. (she/her)
I work with my students to use a variety of approaches to answer questions rooted in applied population ecology, conservation biology, and disease ecology. My work often involves developing or using quantitative tools to help managers and conservationists make decisions in an uncertain world. I am an Assistant Professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.
I love to garden and experiment in the kitchen.
Destini Acosta (M.S. student; she/her)
My interests are in “big picture” questions and finding the solutions. My current research focuses on the conservation of turtle nesting habitat on the shoreline of Lake Champlain. By identifying key factors influencing nesting beach suitability, I will develop and map models of nesting habitat suitability. This will allow managers to effectively apply habitat restoration locally.
On my free time, my interests include tea drinking, dog cuddling, and reading fantasy books.
Carolyn Hanrahan (M.S. student; she/her)
In my graduate research to-date I have focused on the realm of wildlife ecology and conservation -- with a specific interest in how technology (geospatial and other) can help us answer questions of ecological significance. My graduate thesis collaborates with the National Parks Service and focuses on the impact of the Eastern Coyote on the Cape Cod National Seashore. By using a genetic technique known as metabarcoding, I plan to examine the diet of the coyote and determine how their feeding habits affect protected shorebirds and the rest of the environment. Aside from my thesis, I spend my time working with the UVM Spatial Analysis Lab studying tree canopy mapping, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.
In my (fairly limited) free time, I enjoy hikes through the forest, hanging out with the cute cats in my neighborhood, and grabbing an oat milk matcha from local coffee shops!
Anila Kalonia (M.S. student; she/her)
I am broadly interested in conservation biology, especially in developing tools and conducting work that directly informs wildlife managers. My current project focuses on spotted turtle conservation in Vermont. Specifically, I will be creating a habitat suitability model and refining eDNA sampling methods to help biologists locate unknown populations. My hope is that my work will effectively identify important spotted turtle habitat and improve detection methods of freshwater turtle species.
In my free time, I enjoy climbing rocks, exploring the outdoors, and checking out different thrift stores.
Elise Edwards (Ph.D. candidate at Cornell; she/her)
My research interests broadly fall in the realm of applied ecology and conservation. I'm particularly interested in amphibians and reptile population dynamics and how we can use historical and current data to better inform management decisions. My current work examines the enigmatic decline of the northern cricket frog by incorporating data at multiple spatial scales in order to answer complicated questions. This work will result in a better understanding of how to manage cricket frogs and their habitats and will inform not only specific management objectives in New York State but have broad scale implications across the species range.
Apart from my research interests I enjoy spending time outdoors, hiking, kayaking and gardening. During the winter months, aside from the occasional hike, I tend to hibernate and work on craft projects all weekend.
Matthew Gorton (Ph.D. student; he/him)
I am extremely interested in the dynamics of ecosystems, especially in regard to wetland and aquatic habitats; using occupancy modeling to determine important variables for occupancy for various species of amphibians and reptiles, studying the impact road mortality has on turtle populations, and exploring how reptiles and amphibians move throughout the landscape.
I really enjoy building tables, cutting boards, and pretty much anything out of wood.
Reed Scott (Ph.D. student; he/him)
My research interests are currently focused on the interaction between disease prevalence and biodiversity. Specifically, how can the species composition of a community affect disease prevalence? In systems where a single pathogen can infect multiple host species, each species is likely to vary in its reaction to infection. That variation can lead to some species becoming “reservoir hosts” which are able to tolerate infection, while other more susceptible hosts may decline to the point of extirpation. As such, the ability of a disease to persist in a community can depend on the identity of hosts present, as well as total biodiversity and relative abundance of each species. My hope is that by improving our knowledge of disease dynamics, we can better inform management and conservation efforts, specifically regarding re-introduction efforts.
In my free time I enjoy games of all kinds, hiking, biking, running, and trying out different kinds of teas.
Dr. Riley Mummah, Postdoctoral Researcher (she/her)
I am broadly interested in the intersection of statistical, mathematical, genetic, epidemiological, and ecological methodologies and theories in infectious disease. My current research focuses on improving management and surveillance decisions of white nose syndrome by accounting for imperfect detection and misclassification error.
When I'm not working, I like to spend my introverted time baking sweets and completing craft projects, and my extroverted time with my partner and friends, preferably outside surrounded by trees.
Dr. Elias Rosenblatt, Postdoctoral Researcher (he/him)
My research interests focus on the intersection of wildlife populations and human development and activity to identify anthropogenic drivers of wildlife population dynamics. I am particularly interested in studying species and systems that are not well-understood to provide decision-makers with baseline data and inferences that inform management planning and future research. My current research focuses on developing knowledge surrounding SARS-CoV2 transmission in wildlife communities, and modeling potential pathways for future zoonotic transmission.
While not contemplating wildlife disease and conservation, I run a small, diversified farm with my family, and enjoy the seasons running, hiking, climbing, skiing, fishing, and hunting.
Eamon Caffrey, Undergraduate Researcher (he/him)
My research interests focus on how various threatened and endangered species respond to human development and anthropogenic factors that alter wildlife population dynamics. As an undergraduate, I am still discovering new passions and interests in the field of wildlife management, however, I am currently interested in how expanding residential neighborhoods along the shorelines of Cape Cod, Massachusetts impact the populations of the state threatened Diamondback Terrapin turtles that reside there. My current research, being done alongside the Eastham Conservation Foundation, is focused on assessing the impacts that substrate and insect composition have on Diamondback Terrapin nest success in the estuarine dunes of Eastham, Massachusetts. From this work, I hope to potentially propose management strategies that can boost both the nest success rate and overall population stability of Terrapins in this area.
In my free time I enjoy kayaking, fishing, archery, playing soccer, and napping.
Our Lab Alumni
Lindsey Pekurny (she/her) graduated with her MS in Spring 2022. Lindsey now works for the National Park Service.
Undergraduate student Jess Fish (she/they) successfully completed a summer research project on redbacked salamanders in Summer 2022.
Undergraduate student Rhia Henderson (she/her) successfully completed her undergraduate honors thesis in Spring 2020. Her thesis is now published in the Mongolian Journal of Biology.
Our science is motivated by applied research questions, though the findings often have broad ecological implications. We use carefully designed field studies, laboratory experiments, and model-based techniques to make sense of complicated systems.
Understanding species distributions
Where do we find populations, and why?
Studying populations in flux gives us an opportunity to learn what our world might look like in the future. Some changes happen quickly, for instance when populations are exposed to a novel pathogen. Other changes might be more gradual, as processes like competition or climate slowly cause shifts in species ranges. Whether studying an invader, a population under siege, or a community of species, we can use a variety of tools to understand why populations are shifting and what we might be able to do about it.
Working closely with resource managers yields important insights about the complexities of management decision-making. Developing frameworks that identify plausible management actions for meeting objectives can streamline conservation action. Recently, we have worked on identifying optimal management strategies in amphibian disease systems, which may involve translocations and reintroductions. We are also engaged in modeling efforts to better understand how to use imperfect diagnostic data for emerging wildlife pathogens and to understand how to respond to recent SARS-CoV-2 transmission events in wildlife species.
Amphibian disease dynamics
Amphibians worldwide are declining at unprecedented rates. An invasive fungus is one culprit, but other pathogens are also contributing to these declines. We're currently studying how amphibian community composition and wetland spatial arrangement can influence processes like disease transmission and prevalence.
PUBLICATIONS (peer-reviewed publications, popular press articles, and book chapters)
K. Smalling, B.A. Mosher, et al. Site- and individual-level contamination affects infection prevalence of an emerging infectious disease of amphibians. Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology. Accepted.
Mosher, B.A., Doherty Jr, P., Atwood, J., Corey, K., & Collins, C. (2021). Evidence of long-term declines in Island Scrub-Jay vital rates. Avian Conservation and Ecology, 16(2).
A.M. Verrilli, N.F. Leibman, A.E. Hohenhaus, and B.A. Mosher. Safety and efficacy of a ribose-cysteine supplement to increase erythrocyte glutathione concentration in healthy dogs. 2021. American Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 82(8).
D. Grear, B.A. Mosher, et al., Evaluation of regulatory action and surveillance as preventive risk-mitigation to an emerging global amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). 2021. Biological Conservation. 260, 109222..
Wright, A. D., Bernard, R. F., Mosher, B. A., O'Donnell, K. M., Braunagel, T., DiRenzo, G. V., ... & Grant, E. H. C. (2020). Moving from decision to action in conservation science. Biological Conservation, 249, 108698.
H.J. Waddle, D.A. Grear, B.A. Mosher et al. Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) not detected in an intensive survey of North American amphibians. 2020. Scientific Reports. 10, 13012. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-69486-x.
E. Muths, B.R. Hossack, E.H. Campbell Grant, D.S. Pilliod, and B.A. Mosher. Effects of snowpack, temperature, and disease on demography in a wild population of amphibians. 2020. Herpetologica Special Issue. 17 (2): 132-143. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1655/0018-0831-76.2.132.
B. A. Mosher, R. F. Bernard, et al. Successful molecular detection studies require clear communication among diverse research partners. 2020. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 18(1), 43-51. DOI: https://doi-org/10.1002/fee.2141.
Mosher, B. A., Saab, V. A., Lerch, M. D., Ellis, M. M., & Rotella, J. J. (2019). Forest birds exhibit variable changes in occurrence during a mountain pine beetle epidemic. Ecosphere, 10(12), e02935.
R. E. Russell, B. J. Halstead, B. A. Mosher, et al. Effects of amphibian chytrid fungus on apparent survival of frogs and toads of the western USA. Biological Conservation. 236, 296-304.
B. A. Mosher et al. Estimating occurrence, prevalence, and detection of amphibian pathogens: insights from occupancy models. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. (DOI: 10.7589/2018-02-042).
B. A. Mosher, K. P. Huyvaert, and L. L. Bailey. 2018. Beyond the swab: ecosystem sampling to understand the persistence of an amphibian pathogen. Oecologia, 188(1): 319-330. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-018-4167-6.
B. M. Brost, B. A. Mosher, and K. A. Davenport. 2018. A model-based solution for observational errors in clinical studies. Molecular Ecology Resources, 18:580-589. DOI: 10.1111/1755-0998.12765.
B. D. Gerber, S. J. Converse, H. J. Crockett, B. A. Mosher, E. Muths, and L. L. Bailey. 2018. Identifying species conservation strategies to reduce disease-associated declines. Conservation Letters, 11(2): 1-10. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12393.
B. A. Mosher, L. L. Bailey, and K. P. Huyvaert. 2018. Host-pathogen metapopulation dynamics suggest high elevation refugia for boreal toads. Ecological Applications, 28(4): 928-937. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1699.
B. A. Mosher, L. L. Bailey, B. A. Hubbard, and K. P. Huyvaert. 2018. Making inference using complex occupancy models with an unobservable state. Ecography, 41(1): 32-39. DOI: 10.1111/ecog.02849.
K. A. Davenport, B. A. Mosher, B. M. Brost, D. Henderson, N. Denkers, A. Nalls, E. McNulty, C. Mathiason, and E. Hoover. 2018. Distinguishing the shedding and detection of chronic wasting disease prions in deer saliva using occupancy modeling. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 56(1): e01243-17. DOI: 10.1128/JCM.01243-17.
B. A. Mosher, K. P. Huyvaert, T. Chestnut, J. L. Kerby, J. D. Madison, and L. L. Bailey. 2017. Design- and model-based strategies for detecting and quantifying an amphibian pathogen in environmental samples. Ecology and Evolution, 7(24): 10952–10962. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.3616.
S. J. Converse, L. L. Bailey, B. A. Mosher, W. C. Funk, B. D. Gerber, and E. Muths. 2017. A model to inform management actions as a response to chytridiomycosis-associated decline. EcoHealth , 14(S1): 144–S155. DOI: 10.1007/s10393-016-1117-9
B. Gerber, B. A. Mosher, D. Martin, T. Chambert, and L. L. Bailey. (2017). Occupancy models. In A Gentle Introduction to Program MARK (Chapter 21). Available from phidot.org/software/mark/docs/book.
B. A. Mosher, B. Gerber, and L. L. Bailey. (2017). “Saving amphibians from a deadly fungus means acting before we know all the answers”. The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/saving-amphibians-from-a-deadly-fungus-means-acting-without-knowing-all-the-answers-81739.
Interested in joining the lab? Check out the information below.
We are currently advertising for a MS student to join our research team! The position focuses on spotted turtle conservation and begins January 15, 2023. If you are interested, please check out the position description here and apply by September 9, 2022.
If you're a motivated undergraduate student interested in gaining research experience, let's discuss your research interests and whether they might be a good fit for my lab. We seasonally hire research technicians for summer work and also have had students conduct independent research through the UVM SURF Program. If you're interested in discussing options, please send me a resume and short email describing your interests. Students with interests in amphibians, disease ecology, and field work in conjunction with learning statistical modeling skills are especially welcome to reach out.
Graduate Students and Postdocs
You can learn more about the application process on the Rubenstein School graduate program webpage and on the Grad School Info page of this very website. In addition, I welcome inquiries from students and scholars who are interested in applying for funding (e.g., NSF GRFP) and who are highly self-motivated.
Not sure how to navigate graduate school or if it is right for you? I've compiled some information on the graduate school process here.
What’s the deal with graduate school?
I’m so glad that you asked. The graduate school admissions process differs greatly from the undergraduate admissions process, so no worries if it is confusing to you right now. I’m hoping that this page will demystify the process and terminology. I presented much of this information in special session for UVM undergraduates. That presentation can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jul1MOc2HOU.
First, what IS graduate school? Well, in the ecological sciences, it’s an umbrella term that captures a variety of program types that lead post-undergraduate degrees. Typically, those programs lead to either Master of Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees.
MS versus Ph.D. programs. MS and Ph.D. programs differ in a couple of important ways. First, a Ph.D. program is (typically) longer (4-6 years) than a MS program (2-3 years). Second, the Ph.D. often comes with more creative license and responsibility than the MS. In my research group, this means that Ph.D. students are expected to develop some of their own research questions and studies and handle some administrative work (e.g., hiring assistants, submitting IACUC protocols), while MS students may already have core research topics outlined for them and will have more support in learning the ropes of developing a research project. Some Ph.D. programs or research groups suggest (or even require) that Ph.D. applicants already have a MS degree.
Types of programs. First, what type of graduate program are you interested in? There are several different types of graduate programs. They operate differently, and this is one source of confusion. I’ll summarize three general types below that we often see in the ecological sciences, but even more program types might exist.
So you’re interested in pursuing a research-based graduate degree? If so, read on.
The rest of this article focuses on details about research-based graduate programs because that is the type of program that I am affiliated with at UVM. We’ll cover a few points that folks commonly as questions about:
How does funding work? Did you know that most research-based degrees in ecology are funded, meaning that you may be paid a basic living stipend and/or tuition and/or health insurance? When I was an undergraduate student, I didn’t know this! The fact that many graduate programs are funded made graduate school possible for me.
In many research-based programs, students are funded by extramural grant funds. Here’s what that means. PIs (Principal Investigators, or faculty researchers) write research proposals that describe new research that they’d like to conduct. In that proposal, the PI will include a budget. In the budget, we include everything we think we’d need to complete the proposed work successfully: supplies and equipment, but also personnel. We can include graduate student stipend, health insurance, and tuition for graduate students as part of this budget, as well as travel for the student to complete field work or attend scientific conferences. If the proposal is selected for funding (often only a 10-25% chance), the PI can then advertise a funded position to bring on a graduate student to conduct the research.
The great news about this model is that many graduate students on funded projects do not need to take out loans during their graduate degrees. The unfortunate news is that with this funding model, it is essentially impossible for many PIs (myself included) to accept a graduate student without having a grant recently awarded. At the University of Vermont, MS students make about ~$32,000 per year. To bring on a MS student for two years, that means I need to have received a grant for at least $94,000 (beyond the stipend, we also must cover 36 credits of tuition and the student’s health insurance). Wow, expensive, right? To make matters more complicated, most universities collect a percentage (called the “indirect”, “overhead”, or “F&A rate”) of each grant awarded to put towards the immense costs of keeping the university running (e.g., operating and maintaining buildings and grounds, supporting administrative services, etc.). At UVM, the indirect rate varies from 15-56%, meaning that instead of $83,000 to support a MS student for two years, I really need somewhere between $100,000 and $130,000 to be able to advertise a MS position (and more like $180-250K for a 4-year Ph.D. position). For this reason, I cannot accept students unless I have recently received a grant or the student has received a grant themselves (e.g., NSF GRFP).
What is a TA versus an RA?
A teaching assistantship (TA) and a research assistantship (RA) are two different ways of funding a graduate student. They are sometimes combined. When teaching, part or all of the graduate stipend and tuition costs are covered by the university in exchange for your teaching services. This can save grant funds and can allow a PI to create a full funding package for a student when grant funds aren't available to cover an entire graduate degree. TAing can also offer valuable experience to students who have an interest in learning more about teaching. Teaching, however, does take time (between 10-20 hours weekly at UVM, depending on your appointment) and can therefore reduce the total amount of time that you have to work on your research project. I strive to have MS students teach in no more than 1 semester and Ph.D. students teach in no more than two semesters for this reason. Be a bit cautious of projects funded solely on TAships - they often do not come with funding for summer months and can also mean that you need to add a semester or year to your graduation timeline. I suggest asking lots of questions to the PI and to other graduate students if considering a heavy teaching load during graduate school.
I'll be adding more to this section - please check back soon!
OUTREACH & SERVICE
Communication is the final step of the scientific method, and I take this step seriously. If our science does not become relevant to others, how can we expect to live in a world where nature is understood, valued, and preserved?
At the University of Vermont, I teach or have taught Principles of Wildlife Management (WFB174), Conservation Biology (WFB224), Field Herpetology (WFB141), Herpetology (WFB 195), and Ecology, Ecosystems, and Environment (NR 103).
In addition to publishing findings, presenting at meetings, and teaching undergraduate students, I strive to connect science with diverse groups of people, ranging from undergraduate students to policy-makers to children. I'm a proud Letters to a Pre-Scientist and Skype-a-Scientist volunteer.
This July I'll be teaching a course in occupancy estimation at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. If you're interested or have questions, get in touch!
I have served as the primary instructor for a senior-level capstone course in Wildlife Data Collection and Analysis during CSU's semester abroad program in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
In addition, I have taught or co-taught several workshops:
- Introduction to R at the annual Wildlife Society meeting (2017 and 2018)
I've served as a TA and partial instructor for the following classes at Colorado State University:
FW661: Sampling and Analysis of Vertebrate Populations
FW370: Design of Fish and Wildlife Projects
FW471: Wildlife Data Collection and Analysis
GET IN TOUCH
I look forward to hearing from you!