Update: UANews picked up on McGee's social media fame and featured a brand new piece on her work this week. Check it out!
With two AAAS awards (see a recent article on these accomplishments here) and a mountain of twitter fame under her belt, SNRE PhD Candidate, Earyn McGee, has forged a niche for herself to have broad influence in wildlife conservation. McGee uses Twitter as a platform to share her research and spread her love of herpetology to science and animal enthusiasts worldwide. Her online presence is especially valuable for increasing representation of Black women in STEM and inspiring those that feel discouraged from entering a career in natural resources due to the obstacles facing women and people of color in STEM fields.
McGee was recently featured in Forbes for her #FindThatLizard Twitter game, where she posts photos of her field site and challenges her followers to find the lizard. The catch? lizards are tiny, and only reveal themselves after several minutes of earnest searching of every pixel. Participants are encouraged to try to find a new lizard on a weekly basis, which is not only a fun way to keep the public engaged with scientists, but also show just how fascinating lizards can be.
McGee?s research focuses on how stream drying affects lizard diet. Though lizards are terrestrial, much of their diet can be made up of aquatic insects. Growing populations, development, and climate change have put substantial pressure on Arizona?s waterways. Many that were perennial (i.e. flowing continuously) are now ephemeral (i.e. flowing temporarily), and many that are historically ephemeral now flow much less frequently or have nearly permanently dried. Aside from the obvious repercussions for aquatic life, this can have surprising implications for terrestrial life that rely on rivers and streams for food, water, and cover. McGee uses stable isotope analysis to understand just how much aquatic insects contribute to lizard diet. If aquatic insects make up a large proportion of a lizard?s diet, fewer aquatic invertebrates could lower lizard abundance and biodiversity, ultimately creating a cascade of consequences for ecosystem structure and function.
An additional article on her research was recently published by AAAS showing an inside glimpse of what McGee's research looks like on-the-ground, as well as the challenges she faces while conducting such field work. Working in remote areas is dangerous work, particularly for women and people of color. A parallel focus of McGee?s dissertation is examining the barriers that prevent Black women from entering and remaining in natural resource fields. She compiled an academic review to be published in a peer-reviewed journal (coming soon!) and is now organizing a program to introduce girls in middle school to natural resource careers. Stay connected with SNRE for more stories on grad student outreach like hers!
Slideshow Photo by Michael Louie on Unsplash