About Dr. Chelse Prather

Chelse at Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, TX.
Chelse at Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, TX.

I’m currently a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Dayton. A brief history:

I grew up in the rolling hills of Northern Kentucky. To the chagrin of my mother, I was always the girl outside getting dirty and trying to catch animals. I remember bringing home insects, worms, and many other organisms that other girls (and boys) my age found disgusting. In high school, my favorite class was biology, and, as many do, I wanted to pursue a medical degree.  During my first semester, I took a wonderful class in which professionals from many different fields related to biology talked about their careers. To my amazement, I learned that there was a formal study of organisms and the environment called ecology, and that ecologists got paid to answer interesting questions about nature! Immediately upon learning this, there was not a doubt in my mind that wanted to become an ecologist.

Enclosures used to manipulate the presence of walking sticks and snails in a Puerto rican rainforest.
Enclosures used to manipulate the presence of walking sticks and snails in a Puerto rican rainforest.

From that moment on, I did everything I could to become an ecologist. I finished by BS in Biology in 2003 under the guidance of Dr. James Krupa.  I received my PhD in Biology from the University of Notre Dame (2011) with Dr. Gary Belovsky.  I studied how an herbivore (walking stick) and a detritivore (snail) affect understory rainforest processes, and how these effects may be altered by disturbances.

I subsequently had the unique experience of teaching and mentoring graduate students as interdisciplinary postdoc at Florida State University in the Departments of Biology, History, and Philosophy where I also conducted research and developed a love of lichens in the lab of Dr. Tom Miller.

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One of the common grasshopper species in Texas, the grass green grasshopper.

I also spent a couple of years as a Research Assistant Faculty at the University of Houston, working with Dr. Steve Pennings with grasshoppers in rare coastal tallgrass prairies.

Currently, I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Dayton. I am continuing projects in Texas coastal tallgrass prairies. With NSF funding, we are investigating the different factors that determine the abundance and diversity in these prairies, and, conversely, with USDA funding, we are investigating how the diversity of grasshoppers affect how grasslands function.

Outside of science, I’m a mom to a wonderful little boy, spouse to an amazing husband, and caretaker of two rescue dogs. I also enjoy being outdoors, running, good movies and food, yoga, and dancing.

My loyal field assistant and I!
My loyal field assistant and I!

I am hoping to use this site to chronicle my early career as a young, female ecologist with periodic updates on what my lab and I are doing. I will also post unsolicited advice for students who might be interested in going into science, as I found this type of information very useful when I was thinking about going into science myself. Please feel free to contact me with questions on anything you see here. Enjoy!!

Updated Nov. 18th, 2015

My dog, Cana, enjoy the prairie.
One of my dogs, Cana, enjoy the prairie.

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