Allisyn Gillet



MA, Conservation Biology, 2010, Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Thesis: "Mercury and nestling growth rates of red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) in the New York metropolitan area"; Advisor: Dr. Christine Sheppard

BS summa cum laude, Natural Resource Management and Biological Sciences, 2007, Rutgers University, Cook College; Thesis: "Phylogenetic analysis of the PRD-SPRRII gene in several ruminant species"; Advisor: Dr. Barry Jesse

Research Interests:

My current research interests lie broadly in disease transmission, parasite ecology, ecotoxicology, immune function and response, and endangered species conservation of birds. My professional experience encompasses field research involving several censusing and monitoring techniques of avian populations, as well as some zoo work.
For my master's research, I investigated how mercury affects red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) in the New York metropolitan area by comparing a population along the historically contaminated Bronx River in New York City to a population in the suburban habitat of Kenridge Farm in Cornwall, NY. I collected blood and morphological data from nestlings to deduce whether mercury toxicity has an effect on growth and development. I also compared how mercury burdens varied among location, age, and sex.

My PhD research will focus on how certain parasite species (e.g. ectoparasitic lice) are distributed among and within populations of the cooperatively breeding Galápagos mockingbirds (Mimus spp.). My goal is to understand the underlying behavioral mechanisms of pathogen transmission in a complex social system by applying social network theory to help resolve the finer details of transmission from the host's perspective. I may then investigate whether human habitation affects social networks and relate that directly to pathogen transmission. That said, my hope is to help inform methods for management against disease, so as to maintain both wildlife and ecosystem health.