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Meet Our Students - Aly McKnight

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWhat year and semester did you begin EES graduate studies?
Fall 2013

 What degree are you pursuing?
Ph.D.

Who are your academic advisors?
Cyndy Loftin and Shawn McKinney

What prior degrees do you have?
B.A. in Zoology from Connecticut College
M.Sc. in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation from UMass-Amherst.

Why did you choose to attend grad school at UMaine? Why did you choose EES?
UMaine is a great institution with a strong graduate program in wildlife-related fields. The EES program seemed to align best with my own interests, which are less about policy and more about ecology and environmental problems.

Briefly describe the research project you are working on.
My focus is on seabird colony dynamics with respect to factors like food availability, predation, and weather events. I will be working with long-term seabird datasets from both the Gulf of Maine and Prince William Sound, Alaska, in addition to carrying out a tagging study on Razorbills in the Gulf of Maine.

What have been your favorite classes at UMaine so far? If you are new to UMaine, which classes are you most looking forward to taking?
I am most looking forward to taking classes in population dynamics and spatial data analysis.

What has been your most rewarding research experience and why? If you are new to UMaine, what are your research goals?|
I have had many rewarding research experiences while working on seabirds for the FWS in Alaska for over a decade. My favorite project was probably the tagging study we conducted on Kittlitz’s Murrelets in 2009, which involved dipnetting birds in the dark of night while zooming about the open ocean in a small inflatable boat. We learned many things about this rare and declining seabird during the course of the project, most importantly that their night-time distribution differs radically from their daytime distribution, potentially bringing them into contact with salmon fishing gear in areas they were not previously thought to use.

Now that I am here at UMaine, one of my research goals is to investigate the at-sea habitat use of Razorbills, one of our Gulf of Maine auks, using a similar tagging project.

What advice do you have for prospective graduate students?
None yet – check back in later.

Are you interested in mentoring undergraduates?
Eventually, maybe. Right now I am just starting to learn the ropes myself!


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