Tierra is completing her final year of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at Tufts University with an emphasis on zoo and wildlife medicine. While she plans to spend her career treating all species, she has a special interest in the conservation of great apes and their habitats. For her certificate in International Veterinary Medicine, her research projects are focused on the conservation of Asian elephants in Nepal and Mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She is currently researching tuberculosis transmission between elephants, humans and water buffalo in Nepal through the development of a PCR diagnostic technique for differentiating Mycobacteria species in trunk wash samples. She is also working on a saliva collection technique as an alternative sample for the identification of respiratory diseases in Mountain gorilla populations within Rwanda. Through fieldwork with both endangered populations in Nepal and Rwanda, she developed an interest in creating more sustainable ecotourism projects for flagship species. Her main interest is in creating programs that increase the prosperity of surrounding communities while also maintaining the health and natural behavior of the species of interest.
Tierra holds a B.S. degree in combined sciences and studio art from Santa Clara University. She spent several years as a research assistant at The Gorilla Foundation, working with Koko the sign-language speaking gorilla. She has given various presentations to middle school through graduate school level audiences about great ape cognitive abilities and the issues affecting their conservation.
Tierra plans to spend her future as a veterinarian treating individual animals as well as researching larger issues that affect endangered species survival.