person walking through green forest with a beam of light illuminating the undergrowth
Ame in Madre de Dios, Peru (2015) - Mike Petriello


Research projects

I would liken my research experience to a healthy portion from a salad bar. Every time I have pushed myself to question "what we know" and find out more, and every mentor who has helped critique and guide my scientific inquiry has led to me pursuing a doctoral degree at the nexus of environmental sustainability and social science.

Ecohydrology in Costa Rica

I studied impacts of deforestation on the water budget. We examined potential changes in water storage in the vegetation within mature premontane forest in Costa Rica and adjacent crop fields of three varieties with distinct crown architectures, specifically focusing on leaf wetness duration (LWD) as a proxy for canopy storage and evaporation of intercepted rainfall.

I installed thermal dissipation sapflow sensors in tropical trees (funded by US-DOE). I designed experiments and deployed micrometeorological weather stations to collect data from differential land uses on private community land.I also interviewed local farmers and landowners testing their knowledge about the connectedness of intact canopy and water impacts.

Public Policy and Deforestation in Mesoamerica

I conducted a systematic literature review of research on the associations of public policies with forest cover outcomes in Mesoamerica, with the goal of evaluating the evidence base for the efficacy of policy options in the region. We concluded that some policy types have been extensively evaluated in this region. Protected areas, community-based management, and market-based conservation have all been widely studied in Mesoamerica, and all of them frequently are associated with positive outcomes for forest conditions in this region.

Policy, drinking water quality and human health in remote eco-tourism

I collected and tested water samples throughout region rife with illegal gold mining and eco-tourism for bacterial contamination and analyzed the results. Together with Dr. Constance Woodman, I published the resultant work in our local perspective series (2016) and peer-reviewed journal (2019). We worked with a global tourism accrediting body and local tourism committee to produce outreach materials for people affected by water quality issues in the area.

Polycentric water governance in arid coastal Peru

I conducted ethnographic interviews and used participant observation to learn about governmental agents in varying roles in agriculture, environment, fisheries, public health, and regional government and local civil service groups. To do this, I leveraged existing contacts and cultivated relationships to elicit interviews with high-level politicians.

Human-wildlife conflict*

Crop resilience for climate change

As a research assistant at the USDA-ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, I conducted potassium limitation crop stress experiments for use in Africa (funded by USAID). I designed, implemented, and validated new methodology for determining leaf area. I collected plant biomass and analyzed nutrient composition with nitrate reduction. I trained and mentored three undergraduate researchers in analytical and experimental methods.

Lymphoma immunotherapy validation

At the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy (CAGT) at Baylor College of Medicine I tested the efficacy of translational cancer therapies for lymphomas utilizing viral antigen-targeting. I validated cell therapies using immunofluorescent, immunological, and Cr51-release assays. This required mad pipetting skills, lots of ethanol, and occasional donation of my blood cells.

Circadian-regulated herbivory defense in plants

As an undergraduate at Rice University, I worked with Dr. Danielle Goodspeed and Dr. Michael Covington. I learned molecular biology techniques for cloning transgenic plants in Arabidopsis thaliana. I tested new methods for seedling-seedling signaling based on ecotype diversity. I ran and validated novel experiments comparing effects of herbivory on plants to circadian traits.

Nutrient-limitation to induce mass death in marine phytoplankton*

Obligate pollination mutualism between Senita cactus and moth*

Chytridiomycete fungi as a bioindicator of water pollution*

*to be elaborated soon