Biodiversity Institute Fellows Profiles

Monica Papes

PhD, 2009
Advisor:  A. Townsend Peterson
Dissertation title: Ecological applications of remote sensing data in neotropical rainforests
Home country: Romania
Current position: Assistant professor, Department of Integrative Biology, Oklahoma State University

Why did you choose to come to KU?
After graduating from the university in Romania, and I was looking for someone to work with in ornithology and conservation biology. I wanted to work in a museum with a curator. I looked at Town Peterson's research and became interested in coming to KU. Luckily he had space in his laboratory and funding. 

How did your research focus change over time?
During my master's degree, my geographic area of interest was central and Eastern Europe and the conservation of bird species there. So I focused on conservation and the ecological niche modeling of several species there, and that allowed me to show what species were vulnerable and in need of conservation. During that time, I had a great opportunity for a tropical ecology course in Costa Rica. I fell in love with the tropics! So I focused on studying how the seasonality of vegetation influences local migration patterns, or short distance migration. What I'm trying to do now is research more in the remote sensing realm for ecology and conservation questions. I also teach ecology, conservation biology, a graduate course, environmental physiology -- it keeps me on my toes!

How did your experiences at the Biodiversity Institute prepare you for your academic career? 
Getting to meet very diverse scientists, in terms of their research agendas had the most long-term influence and effect on my professional development and career. That exposure helped me think broadly and train broadly. And many of those that I met at KU are now in my professional network. That was so valuable: if you don’t have a network when you graduate, it’s hard to develop professionally.