Miranda Mitchell (4+1 BS/MPH) plans to research the disease ecology of bats in Costa Rica. Her primary advisor is Professor Thomas Gillespie, whose research focuses on global health, biodiversity and conservation. We caught up with Miranda at the end of her recent scouting expedition to find out more about her research interests and proposed work in Costa Rica. Miranda’s field experience was partially funded by the ENVS Lester Grant.
1. How did you come to major in ENVS?
I found my passion for environmental issues when I took AP Environmental Science in high school. That led me to get involved with my high school’s environmental club and also joined a really nerdy national competition called EnviroThon. When I got into Oxford College, I knew that majoring in science would be a challenge, but I felt a moral obligation to continue studying environmental issues. I ended up loving the community, as well as the variety of courses offered, in the ENVS Department.
2. How did you come to be in the BS/MPH program?
While at Oxford, I was offered an internship at the Newton County Department of Public Health by a sociology professor of mine, Dr. Deric Shannon. After working for a public health department, I decided I wanted to learn more about the relationship between our environment and our health. When I learned about the BS/MPH program later that year, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to expand my knowledge about environmental determinants of health.
3. What are your research interests?
My research interests include environmental policy, vector-borne disease, and global conservation efforts. My thesis will exam the prevalence of a pathogen called Bartonella in wild bat populations across a land-use gradient in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is conducive to such a study due to the high biodiversity of bats in the country.
4. What did you enjoy most about your field experience?
I loved the exploratory and adventurous nature of our field work. We travelled almost entirely around the country, from the Southern town of Golfito to the Northwestern province of Guanacaste. We visited caves in both the tropical rainforest and dry forest climates, as well as caves nearby agricultural plots and within national parks. Seeing the diversity of land, plants and animals (mostly bats!) during all this was truly inspiring and reminded me of why I do what I do.