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Welcome to our new PhD Student – Matthew Mangan!

In this new post, we welcome our new PhD student Matthew Mangan!

"I grew up outside of Chicago in the USA but gained my love for nature while spending summers of my youth in the northern woods of Wisconsin. My family often called me “Dr. Dolittle” due to my childhood tendency to care for every injured animal I came across in the forest. However, it seems I shirked my veterinary destiny and chose ecology instead.

My older brothers and me posing with a rabbit we found in the forest.

I began studying host-parasite dynamics of ticks in the lab of Dr. Stephanie Foré during my BSc at Truman State University, and immediately became fascinated with the realm of vector ecology. During my Honours and MSc research, I used a decade of bi-weekly tick monitoring and environmental data to model off-host activity of the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) in each of its three life stages. I additionally ran common-garden studies to analyze behavioural variation in ticks collected from different habitats, and used nutrient stores to elucidate lone star tick demographic structure in natural populations.

An adult lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) questing for her final bloodmeal.

In the wake of my MSc, I became disillusioned that I had spent virtually my entire life driving through cornfields in the midwest United States, so I made a concerted effort to compensate for my lack of worldliness. To my mother’s dismay, my first job out of university was as a government biologist collecting data on fishing vessels in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. While the wildlife was impeccable, I quickly learned to appreciate the literal and metaphorical stability associated with working on dry land.

Bald eagle density is quite a bit higher in Alaskan fishing ports….

Following that, I became staff for an elephant ecotourism program in northern Thailand through Global Vision International. We primarily worked with a single Karen village to subsidise the relocation of Asian elephants from tourist camps back to their natural habitat, but we also taught English to families around the village and worked on conservation outreach programs with the local community. While the elephants were truly were magical to work with, my fragile ego could no longer handle getting regularly embarrassed by 10-year-old Karen children on the football pitch, so I left to chase the next experience.

Posing with Lulu, the youngest of the elephants in Huay Pakoot.

At my last stop, I worked as a field scientist conducting mammal surveys for Operation Wallacea in the cloud forests of Cusuco National Park, Honduras. I mostly ran regular transects searching for tracks and signs of anything from squirrels to jaguars, but I also conducted regular rodent trapping and opportunistic camera trapping. Unfortunately, the Honduran guides were also very good at football.

The Cusuco mammal team (left) and me dying of exhaustion after 5 minutes of football with the guides (right).

All in all, I’ve given up on my aspirations to be scouted by a Premier League club… But in considering that I dearly missed the thrill of academic research, I decided to search for international PhD opportunities related to disease ecology. Though I still insist that ticks are the coolest animals on the planet, I must admit I’m quite excited to start my journey here at Griffith studying chytrid fungus in Fleay’s barred frog!"

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