Lauren is a Ph.D. candidate with Dr. Susan Whitehead in the Department of Biological Sciences. Her dissertation research focuses on the chemical ecology of plant–animal interactions. She earned a B.S. in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology from North Carolina State University in 2015. During her undergraduate studies, Lauren completed two National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) Internships with the University of Costa Rica and the Smithsonian Institution. After graduation, she traveled while working as a field technician before conducting post-baccalaureate research at Archbold Biological Station in Florida. Her past research topics include invasive species, trophic cascades, sustainable agriculture, and urban greenspaces.
The first part of Lauren’s dissertation research took place at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, where she conducted an integrative examination of the role of plant secondary metabolites in seed dispersal and fruit defense. Specifically, she and her collaborators provided the first description of the natural variation and ecological role of a diverse group of compounds in a neotropical shrub, Piper sancti-felicis. Her next project will examine the role of herbivore-induced plant volatiles on insectivorous bat and bird foraging. To conduct this research, Lauren is collaborating with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and working in farms across Maryland. She hopes the results from this project will inform both wildlife conservation and sustainable farming practices.
Lauren is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and is an active participant in the American Indian and Indigenous Community Center at Virginia Tech. She helped establish and now chairs the IGC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. Through the IGC program, she hopes to contribute to the local and global community through service and outreach, undergraduate student mentoring, and science communication.