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Meet Cat Dayger, Ph.D. candidate in Biology
Meet Cat Dayger, Ph.D. candidate in Biology

Cat Dayger is a Ph.D. candidate in Biology at Portland State University, and at the center of her research is a “mating ball” of wild, red-sided garter snakes. 

In the lab of Dr. Deborah Lutterschmidt, assistant professor Biology, Cat studies how neurological and ecological factors impact reproductive behavior.  Her observations of how, when, and why female snakes decide to mate could have broad implications, helping scientists better understand the reproductive behaviors for many other creatures. 

“If you consider all the animals, in all the habitats, all over the world, billions of reproductive decisions are happening all around us, all the time. These decisions impact whether or not a species will go extinct, if a fishery is sustainable and when a hunting season will open. . .” said Dayger in a guest post on the blog Science Martini.

Cat’s interest in understanding animal physiology and reproductive processes and its relation to the environment, ultimately led her to bigger questions about the impact that state and national policies can have on that process. 

“There is a ripple effect with policy,” she says. “Our decisions not only impact our environment, communities and businesses but may have impacts on organisms that we may not even realize.”

Interested in learning more about how policy is created and implemented, Cat applied for and received the Oregon Sea Grant Natural Resources Policy Fellowship, a prestigious and highly competitive fellowship in the Natural Resources Office of Oregon Governor Kate Brown. 

Beginning in September, Cat will travel up and down the Oregon Coast talking to communities and stakeholders, helping to assess how changes in the built and natural environment, sea and land, might impact the environment, their communities, and their livelihoods.  

Though Cat will work full-time as a Fellow for the Governor’s Office, she hasn’t forgotten her snakes! Having already published 11 papers, she is actively working on her dissertation and intends to defend her thesis in Spring 2017. 

Cat hopes that the fellowship, along with her academic and research experience, will lead her to a future career in natural resources policy.