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Dara Satterfield, Ph.D.

James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow
B.A., Agnes Scott College; Ph.D., University of Georgia

Dara Satterfield is a James Smithson Fellow at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. As a postdoctoral fellow, she is working with Peter Marra and Scott Sillett to synthesize current understanding about the ecology of insect migration. Satterfield’s overarching mission is to use her research to inform conservation efforts for migratory species and to connect public audiences with butterflies and moths through citizen science. Specifically, her research (1) investigates how insect migration influences ecological processes, particularly infectious disease dynamics, and (2) explores how environmental changes affect animal movement and disease risk in wild populations. She uses a combination of field work, laboratory experiments, citizen science and mathematical modeling approaches to address these questions.

Satterfield's projects include:

  • Synthesizing literature on the ecological significance of insect migration
  • Investigating how migration influences infectious disease dynamics in monarch butterflies
  • Examining changes in migratory behavior of wildlife across taxa
Satterfield’s graduate research (in collaboration with Sonia Altizer and John Maerz) focused on monarch butterflies that skip migration to breed year-round on exotic milkweed in the southern U.S. Her work showed that sedentary monarchs face an extremely high infection risk, relative to migratory monarchs, from a debilitating protozoan parasite. This work suggests that native milkweeds, rather than exotic milkweeds that grow year-round, could better support monarch health and migration.
Satterfield earned her Ph.D in ecology in 2016 at the University of Georgia, where she received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant and an NSF award for her co-authored essay on graduate education. She completed her B.A. in biology at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Satterfield’s interest in wildlife germinated in metro Atlanta, where she spent much of her childhood exploring the creek in her front yard and her grandmother’s farmland. Outside of research, Satterfield loves spending time with friends, exploring Washington, reading English literature, caring for her two adopted rabbits, and volunteering.
Recent Publications: 

Satterfield, D.A., Maerz, J.C., & Altizer, S. Loss of migratory behaviour increases infection risk for a butterfly host. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2015). 282 (1804).

Streicker, D.G., Winternitz, J., Satterfield, D.A., Condori-Condori, R.E., Broos, A., Tello, C., Recuenco, S., Velasco-Villa, A., Altizer, S., Valderrama, W. Host–pathogen evolutionary signatures reveal dynamics and future invasions of vampire bat rabies. PNAS (2016).

Satterfield, D.A., Villablanca, F.X., Maerz, J.C., & Altizer, S. Migratory monarchs wintering in California experience low infection risk compared to monarchs breeding year-round on non-native milkweed. Integrative and Comparative Biology (2016). 56(2):343-52.