Her current research regularly takes her and the rest of the museum's mammalogy lab group to the Bahamas to study bats. They are trying to figure out how changes in sea level rise have affected populations of the Brazillian free-tailed bat to determine how populations of bats have been affected by climate change over time.
"We can try to extrapolate how changes in the past might affect these populations in the future," she said.
Her research and outreach are designed to give the public a better understanding and appreciation of mammal populations, especially misunderstood and unfamiliar animals.
Knowledge can lead to conservation and serve as motivation to get people interested in protecting biodiversity, Mathis said, especially in places like the Bahamas where most people do not have much information about their native species. She said it's important to get locals invested in what they have, so they can take pride in their natural diversity.
"But first we have to find and understand what’s there," she said.
Help wanted: Only those with taxidermy skills and willingness to collect road kill need apply
For decades it wasn't always expected, or accepted, that women might answer such a call, and maybe that was the problem. Mammalogy was not-so-long-ago a field dominated by men. Just a short time ago, when Mathis was looking for Ph. D. advisers, there wasn't a large pool of women mentors to pick from. Since then, over the past decade, Mathis said there's been a major shift.
“Now we have all these women that we can look to and say, OK, I want to be like her, she’s doing some really awesome science.”
She's been lucky enough, she says, to be shielded from many of the inequalities that still exist in science, thanks to the supportive environment at the Florida Museum. It's this environment that has allowed her to combine her passion for collections management with field research.
"The museum wants its researchers to do what they’re passionate about, even when it's a little unorthodox,” she said.
And while working a day job in a room filled with bones and skins isn’t exactly normal, she admits, her friends and family have embraced it.
“I’m the first person they contact if they see a strange mammal, or find a bone or something,” she said. “This morning, a friend of mine found a dead opossum in multiple pieces and felt the need to share that with me by texting a picture. Because, you know, of course they think I want to see this dead opossum,” she laughed.