Biodiversity Institute Fellows Profiles

Heather York

PhD, 2007
Advisors: Robert Timm
Dissertation title: Interspecific ecological differentiation in the short -tailed fruit bats (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae: Carollia)
Home country: United States
Current position: assistant professor of biology, Doane College in Crete, Nebraska

What was your experience with field work as part of your education?
I studied the ecology of fruit bats in Central and South America. My studies included field work in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Peru. My first experience in the field was with the Organization for Tropical Studies, which helped me better understand the museum specimens I had seen in the collections, now live in their environment. In the field, you stumble upon things. I loved learning about the plants, animals, insects, and all of their interactions. You can't get that if you're not in the field.

How did your studies at KU prepare you?
I received a Self Fellowship at KU. That program offered a lot of leadership training. We received training on grant writing, negotiations, speaking with the media, and different aspects of academia and industry. If I have issues with funding or pulling people together on a complex project, I can tell that I had that training because I put it to work. Also, at the KU Natural History Museum, there was a sense of belonging. I felt free to walk into offices and collections, to check out what others were doing -- it was a great community environment.

What advice would you offer to students?
Take advantage of what's available. There are so many options. While you can get lost in your studies, you should be able to reach out and see what else is happening and other resources available. You'll meet people that you will continue to have relationships with after you leave. I still have connections with the people I knew in graduate school. Sometimes it's at a friend level, and other times a collaboration in research, sharing ideas about teaching, or ideas about projects. It's great to have that network in place.