I am a dedicated naturalist, ecologist, and environmental educator with a passion for writing. I work as a Lecturer in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, where I teach courses emphasizing natural history and environmental education & communication. I am also the Director of the Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke and Director of the NSOE Communications Studio.
My training in ecology began in 1994 at The Grove, a local nature preserve in northern Illinois, where I worked at as both a naturalist and educator. In 2002, I graduated summa cum laude in three years from the University of Illinois – Urbana with a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and completed the competitive Environmental Fellows Program. After completing my undergraduate degree, I spent one year as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Knoxville, TN working at the interface of policy and science. My work included meeting regularly with the Knox County Department of Stormwater Management, while monitoring the biological, chemical, and physical quality of local waterways. In the summer of 2003, I volunteered at The Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.
I completed my doctoral studies in Duke University’s Program in Ecology, rated as one of the top three programs in the nation by the National Research Council. My dissertation research explored the multi-scale distributions and conservation status of snakes in the North American tallgrass prairie and integrated the quantitatively intense methods of landscape ecology with the more traditional field-based approach of conservation biology. (For more information please see my 2008 paper published in Biological Conservation.)
In 2011, I began work as a Lecturing Fellow in the Thompson Writing Program (TWP) at Duke University. There, I received intensive training in pedagogical methods. This training allowed me to develop and teach writing courses that empowered students to complete real-world research and service-learning projects. These courses included Endangered Ecosystems of North Carolina, From Woods to Words, and European Environmentalism. I also used the TWPs unique interdisciplinary environment to develop a new research program focused on environmental education. Today, many of my research questions revolve around the use of written materials in nature centers in the United States and Europe (e.g., Cagle 2013 in Applied Environmental Education and Communication). I am also interested in environmental leadership and have recently contributed a book chapter on Naturalists as Environmental Leaders to Environmental Leaders: A Reference Handbook.
In 2013, I was invited to join the Faculty of the Nicholas School of the Environment. Since then, I have taught courses in natural history (e.g., Forest Measurements, Wildlife Surveys) and communication (e.g., writing for environmental professionals). This amalgamation of subjects follows a long tradition of naturalists, including Aldo Leopold and E. O. Wilson. I also conduct regular biotic surveys of the Duke Forest, and I have conducted research on bird-window collisions on Duke’s campus.
In addition, I remain committed to environmental education, both locally and globally. I have completed projects such as building a footbridge at Occoneechee Mountain State Park and teaching biology and English in a small town in Tanzania. In 2007, I completed my North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. In 2012, I completed my Native Plant Studies certificate at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, where I currently teach Soil Ecology and Piedmont Savanna Ecology. I also write a bi-monthly natural history newsletter for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. In 2013, I became a National Association for Interpretation Certified Interpretive Trainer. I also had the opportunity to explore the current climate in K-12 education as a North Carolina Science Leadership Fellow (2012-2014). In 2016, I completed my Kamana I Naturalist Certificate from the Wilderness Awareness School. Currently, I am exploring the internal dimensions of human connection to the natural world in the Inner Life of the Child in Nature program offered by the Center for Education, Imagination, and the Natural World.
Finally, I have a deep interest in foreign culture and language that compelled me to study a number of languages and travel to all 50 states and over 35 countries. On the weekends, I love spending time in nature, writing and reading, visiting historical sites, and exploring local museums with my husband and remarkable son.