My first twenty years of adulthood have been incredibly fortunate. Immediately after college, I flew to Peru to study macaw conservation at the Tambopata Research Center, deep in the Amazon. For the next three years, I worked with non-profits across the Americas studying parrots in Latin America (Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica) and passerines in North America (Mexico, Vermont, Colorado, Washington). I decided to go to graduate school to learn population genetics and phylogenetics, presumably related to birds. However, I met Andy Martin who convinced me to join his lab and study flea guts (he lied and told me that I could always go back to studying birds). After receiving my PhD, I went on to work in the experimental bubonic plague lab at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention under the mentorship of Ken Gage. Andy and Ken were truly amazing mentors and I am forever indebted to them. In 2011, I left the USA for a position as a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Agriculture at the University of Sydney. After finishing 10 years! of post-graduate education and training, I became the principal investigator of a microbial ecology lab; there I focused on microbes and their roles in disease vectors (e.g. mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas) and ecosystem services (e.g. nutrient cycling in soils and freshwater).