Chelsea Kross joined the Forbes Biological Station at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as a quantitative ecologist in May 2020.
Chelsea earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She went on to complete her master’s in biology at Eastern Kentucky University, studying the effects of constructed wetlands on predator-prey dynamics in the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Prior to joining INHS, Chelsea examined the conservation and population ecology of the crawfish frog for her PhD at the University of Arkansas. She has also contributed to multiple studies focused on the ecology and conservation of herpetofaunal species, including the effect of prey size on watersnakes’ feeding morphology and occupancy patterns of an invasive salamander species.
Chelsea recently answered a few questions about her path into science.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
As a freshman in undergrad, I attended a seminar where the speaker shared his research on diet analysis in baleen whales and sea otters using stable isotopes. Afterwards, I asked the speaker how I could do something like that, and he pointed me to my future advisor and mentor, Dr. Melissa Pilgrim. After catching my first spotted salamander, I was hooked.
Who drew you to study ecology and conservation?
Dr. Melissa Pilgrim first introduced me to field work. She got me started in amphibian conservation. My primary project was completing North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP) routes in South Carolina and monitoring changes in anuran species assemblages over time. She has continued to be an important mentor.
What question do you get asked most frequently about your career?
I am commonly asked if crawfish frogs get their name because they eat crayfish. While they might eat a small crayfish occasionally, they are called crawfish frogs because they spend most of the year (~11 months) in a crayfish burrow away from their breeding wetlands. And yes, it’s crawfish frog, not crayfish frog. 😊
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at INHS?
I am really excited about learning a new system and applying the skills I’ve learned to the ecology and conservation of waterbirds and waterfowl.
What advice would you give to future scientists?
1) It is never too late to pursue a career in science and 2) search out people who will support you throughout your career.