Published: April 6, 2017
Sankovitz scuba diving with a starfish.

Studying ecology and evolutionary biology has allowed me to delve into the investigation of many different organisms and ecosystems on Earth. During my sophomore year at University of Colorado Boulder, I spent my time at the Butterfly Pavilion as an entomologist intern, caring for a great variety of insects and investigating tarantula molting patterns. These arachnids are popular in the pet trade, so understanding their growth patterns is crucial to protecting them from becoming endangered in the wild. As a junior, I traveled to Queensland, Australia with School for International Training to study rainforest, reef, and cultural ecology. While down under, I camped with Aboriginal elders as they taught me traditional cultural ecology, hiked for weeks through the wet tropics rainforest, and examined the effects of coral bleaching on butterflyfish of the Great Barrier Reef while living and studying at Lizard Island Research Station. The biodiversity of Australia is rich in biological and cultural significance. I then traveled down to Tasmania and had the amazing opportunity to study variations in morphometric body shape of southern rock lobster puerulus larvae with Dr. Caleb Gardner at University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. These crustaceans are majorly important in sustainable fishing industries, and climate change is already showing effects on their life history strategies. Keeping with my love for invertebrates and eager to investigate ecology in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (my backyard), I was fortunate to take part in a National Science Foundation REU program at University of Colorado’s Mountain Research Station. During this program, I studied the ant, Formica podzolica, and the effects of their mound nests on surrounding vegetation under the guidance of Dr. Michael Breed. Ants, although small animals, comprise an enormous amount of insect biomass and have the ability to affect the environment as ecosystem engineers. I continued this research in his lab during my senior year (funded by CU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program), and I am currently writing an honors thesis on it. My undergraduate experience in EBIO has not only been diverse, adventurous, and full of incredible learning opportunities, but it has equipped me with knowledge of evolution and organismal biology, preparing me to be a scientist in a modern world of changing climates and ecosystems!