Herpetologist Highlight: Erin Westeen

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Herpetologist Highlight

Name: Erin Westeen

Age: 24

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: @erin_westeen

Where do you work? University of California, Berkeley

Position: PhD Student

How did you get there? I majored in biology at the University of Michigan, with the original intention of becoming a veterinarian. Like many other students, I didn’t really know what a herpetologist was when I started out. But after a few courses in ecology and evolution, I was hooked by the diversity of herps, especially squamates. I was fortunate to land a position at the museum of zoology working with Dan Rabosky and Alison Davis Rabosky, professors in ecology and evolutionary biology and the herpetology curators. I worked largely in the collections (with collections manager Greg Schneider), CT scanning snake skulls for my honors thesis. There, I learned that there are many pathways to becoming a herpetologist, such as field biology, museum jobs, or the academic track. Wanting to get some field experience, I did an internship in Arizona with the Game & Fish department. I spent four glorious months exploring every corner of Arizona in search of its herpetofauna; I still regard this as one of my most meaningful experiences in my journey as a scientist. Since then, I have been on field expeditions with the University of Michigan museum of zoology to Peru and Nicaragua, and soon Belize!

I came to UC Berkeley for my graduate studies because I wanted to learn new skills: my research at Michigan focused on the morphological evolution of many species, while my current advisor, Ian Wang, has expertise in population and landscape genetics. It is my eventual goal to link these two interests to understand how microevolutionary processes impact macroevolutionary patterns. Another reason I chose Berkeley was because I wanted to be a part of a diverse research community; I’m extremely grateful to be here.

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