P.E.O. ayudando a la educación superior de las mujeres

(see below for English version)

En la mayoría de los casos, el camino hasta llegar a los estudios de postgrado, y especialmente si es un postgrado en ecología tropical, no es barato.

Después de mis estudios de licenciatura, me encontré realizando actividades que definitivamente me iban a ayudar a desarrollar mis habilidades, enriquecer mi experiencia y mi curriculum, pero también a empobrecer mi cuenta bancaria. Fui voluntaria en laboratorios, en expediciones de campo, realicé prácticas en el otro lado del mundo y me apunté a varios cursos de inglés para tener varios certificados. Solía decir que todas estas actividades eran INVERSIONES. Cuando comencé mi doctorado pensé que todas esas inversiones por fin se veían recompensadas. Y sí, era verdad, estaba en un buen grupo de investigación, estudiando lo que yo quería. Sin embargo, muy pronto me di cuenta de que el doctorado era otra inversión. Tuve que hacer malabares para poder pagar las tasas, la renta, la comida, el seguro, el coche y todo lo necesario para empezar una vida en Miami.

Afortunadamente, mi compañera de laboratorio Catherine Bravo me animó a solicitar la International Peace Scholarship, ofrecida por la hermandad P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization). Esta beca apoya a mujeres internacionales que realizan estudios de postgrado en los Estados Unidos y Canada. Durante este año académico, P.E.O. me ha proporcionado apoyo para pagar las tasas y algún otro gasto, lo que ha hecho mi vida mucho más fácil y amena.

P.E.O. fue fundada en 1869 por siete estudiantes de Iowa Wesleyan College en Mount Pleasant, Iowa. El objetivo era promover oportunidades de educación para mujeres. La hermandad ha crecido y ahora está presente en los 50 estados de Estados Unidos y en seis provincias de Canadá. Hay más de 250.000 miembros de P.E.O. en el mundo. Más de 90.000 mujeres se han beneficiado de P.E.O. a través de becas, préstamos, premios, proyectos especiales y Cottey College.

Recientemente, tuve el honor de acudir a una comida en conmemoración de la fundación de P.E.O. por siete mujeres valientes, que desafiaron el mundo de su tiempo. Conocí a mujeres increíbles de diferentes capítulos de Broward County, Florida. Me mostraron un increíble entusiasmo por mi investigación, mis objetivos y el impacto que yo misma y otras mujeres podemos tener en la sociedad.

Fue una experiencia increíble y me gustaría agradecer a P.E.O. no solo por la beca, que es muy útil, sino por el apoyo emocional y social que me proporcionan.

P.E.O., helping women pursue higher education

In many cases, the path to arrive to Graduate school, and especially Graduate school in Tropical Ecology, is not cheap.

After completing my undergraduate degree, which already required a fair amount of money, I found myself performing different activities that were definitely helping the development of my skills, the enrichment of my experience and my resume, but also the depletion of my bank account. I volunteered in labs, in field expeditions, I had internships in different parts of the world and I enrolled in several English courses. I used to say (for myself and the judging world) that all of those activities were INVESTMENTS. When I got into the PhD program I thought that, finally, all of those investments would be acknowledged. Yes, they were; I got into a good lab doing what I want to do.  However, I soon realized that Grad school was one more investment. I was financially juggling to pay the fees, the rent, the food, the insurance and the car; everything to start a life in Miami.

Fortunately, my lab mate Catherine Bravo encouraged me to apply for the International Peace Scholarship offered by the sorority P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization). This scholarship supports international women doing their graduate studies in the United States and Canada. During this past academic year, they have provided me support to pay my fees and some extra expenses which has made my life a lot easier and enjoyable.

P.E.O. was founded in 1869, by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The goal was to promote educational opportunities for women. The sorority has grown and now it is present in the 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces. There are more than 250,000 members of P.E.O. around the world.  More than 90,000 women have benefited from P.E.O.´s educational grants, loans, awards, special projects and stewardship of Cottey College.

I recently had the honor of attending a luncheon to commemorate the foundation of P.E.O. by the seven brave women who challenged the world of their time. I met incredible women from different chapters in Broward County, Florida. They showed an incredible enthusiasm about my research, my goals and about the impact that myself and other women can have on society.

It was certainly a great experience and I want to sincerely thank P.E.O., not only for the funding which is incredibly helpful, but for the emotional and social support that they provide me.




Invasive Cuban Lizard in Bermuda

The work of upwithclimate team member, James Stroud, is featured on the Discovery Channel’s Discovery News website.  To read the article, follow this link.  The Discovery News article is based on a press release by Evelyn Perez and the FIU NEWS, copied below.


Invasive lizard takes up residence in Bermuda

FIU biology student James Stroud has observed a non-native species of lizard in Bermuda, a potential problem for the island’s critically endangered Bermuda skink.

A two-year conservation project studying the island’s lizard populations led to the discovery of the Cuban brown anole, a species once rumored to inhabit the North Atlantic island, but was never verified until now.

“The Cuban brown anole most likely reached Bermuda by human transport,” said Stroud, a Ph.D. student in the Kenneth Feeley Lab. “These lizards hitch rides between ports as unintended stowaways amongst cargo, usually in nursery plants and building materials. Although further research is needed to confirm it, this route of introduction seems likely.”

The introduction of the Cuban anole could pose difficulties for the endangered Bermuda skink, the island’s only native lizard species. Also known as a rock lizard, the skink is listed as critically endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Red List, the world’s authority on the conservation status of plant and animal species. According to the researchers, Cuban brown anoles excel at thriving outside of their native geographical area. The lizards can live in a variety of natural and human-made habitats, and feed on a variety of prey, potentially putting them at an advantage to other lizard species who might not be as tolerant.

“We have discovered that the Cuban brown anole does not yet overlap its distribution with the Bermuda skink,” Stroud said. “Therefore, the potential effects of the non-native brown anole on the native Bermuda skink are currently unknown. This topic forms part of our ongoing research interests in Bermuda.”

After surveying all of Bermuda, Stroud found populations of the Cuban lizard at all life stages indicating they are thriving in the central part of the island. He also found the established Jamaican anole continues to be found all over the island, but the Antiguan anole has significantly expanded into areas where the Barbadian lizards live. The discovery was made alongside former FIU doctoral student Sean Giery and Bermuda’s Department of Conservation Services.

Originating in Cuba and the Bahamas, the Cuban brown anole is one of the most widespread lizards outside of its native area with large populations found from Florida to Texas, California, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Singapore and Taiwan. Cuban brown anoles can be found in urban environments including downtown Miami and natural environments such as the Everglades. Anoles are very diverse group of lizards and about 372 species are currently known to exist.

Stroud recently traveled to Costa Rica where he conducted the first-ever study of the Cuban brown anole’s ecology and distribution in the Central American country. He is devoting his doctoral research to studying the evolution, interactions and community patterns of Anolis lizards in the tropics.

The Cuban brown anole was recently confirmed to live in Bermuda by FIU biology Ph.D. student James Stroud. Photo by James Stroud

Cuban Brown anole in Bermuda.  Photo by J Stroud.

Time to start walking the walk

Yesterday I served as an expert panelist for a discussion of climate change and conservation with about 50-60 middle school students.  Overall it was a very positive experience, but…

Included with the event was a ‘breakfast’.  Here is a picture of our ‘breakfast’:


A conservationist’s breakfast?


Even looking past the fact that a donut does not constitute a real breakfast, we can see several obvious problems.  Namely, The donuts were served individually on plastic plates and coffee was served in styrofoam cups.  The only other drinking option was bottled water.  And there was no recycling bin in sight so all plastic plates and bottles went straight the trash.

How hypocritical are we that we can lead a discussion with children about the dangers of climate change and the need for them all to be responsible consumers, while at the same time we sit there drinking out of styrofoam cups?  What type of example are we setting?

Similarly, last month I spoke at a major fundraising function to help entice donors into supporting a new tropical conservation center at my university.  And guess what we all ate for dinner as we sat around discussing tropical deforestation?  Beef!  We were not even given a choice – beef for all!  And to go along with our plates of deforestation, we were all given various pieces of literature, none of which was printed on recycled or sustainably-sourced paper.

Again, how hypocritical can we be?







Under current NSF funding rates, the average researcher will spend half their career unfunded


Think about it…About 1/4 of NSF pre-proposals get invited to submit full proposals. About 1/4 of those full proposals get funded. That equates to an overall average success rate of around 6%. In other words, the average researcher will have 16 proposals rejected for every one proposal that they get funded.

By current NSF policy, a researcher can only submit 2 proposals per year. So an average researcher will just 1 grant funded every 8 years. Most grants last 3 or 4 years.

Put it all together and this means that our average researcher who applies to NSF every chance they get, will spend over half their career unfunded.

Is this really a tenable system?

FIU SEEDs Chapter, G.L.A.D.E.S, visits Archbold Biological Station

A guest post by Marie Colom:

GLADES member, Marie Colom, inspects an at the Archbold Biological Station for wasp galls.  Photo by Dustin  Angell of the Archbold Biological Station.


Students from the FIU undergraduate ecology club and SEEDS chapter, GLADES, gathered with members of other SEEDS chapters from Florida Atlantic University and Bethune Cookman University during the weekend (November 12-15, 2015) at the Archbold Biological Station for a 4-day field trip that consisted of workshops, field projects, data analyses, and a career panel- not to mention bonfires, star-gazing and relaxing by the lake!

During the trip we learned about the Florida scrub ecosystem and participated in a research project led by Dr. Reed Bowman, director of the Avian Ecology Lab at the Archbold station.  In order to determine if oak galls are affecting acorn production, and thus Florida Scrub Jay abundance and dietary habits, we were sent out to the field to collect data by counting the number of galls on each of 16 tagged oak trees. These data were then combined with already existing data to be analyzed and presented to the Archbold faculty.  Although the project yielded some interesting results, it seemed like more data need to be collected.

As SEEDs students, we received advice and encouragement from the Archbold faculty to pursue careers in the ecological sciences.  A career panel consisting of faculty from local universities, such as University of South Florida and University of Central Florida, along with several state agency professionals gave us insight into the different paths we can take as ecologists or environmental scientists.

We also enjoyed a tour of the Buck Island Ranch, a working cattle ranch at the MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center. One of the major studies conducted at this site is the “Ecology on a Working Landscape” which deals with methane emission from wetlands and grazed grasslands. One surprising result, so far, suggests that more methane is produced in the ungrazed wetlands compared to the grazed wetlands during the wet season.

The trip ended with a visit to Lake Annie; the water was warm, a group of us tried to catch water beetles, others read and the rest relaxed next to the lake. It was both a meaningful and inspiring trip for us all.

ABS_SEEDS_Satab_14 (1)

Students from FIU, FAU and BCU enjoy a tour of the Archbold Biological Station and MacArthur Agro-Ecology Research Center at Buck Island Ranch.  Photo by Dustin Angell of the Archbold Biological Station.

See some more pictures HERE.


Faculty position at FIU in Plant Biochemistry and Natural Products Chemistry

Plant Biochemistry and Natural Products Chemistry: The Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University is seeking applicants for an OPEN RANK tenure track position in PLANT BIOCHEMISTRY AND NATURAL PRODUCTS CHEMISTRY. Applicants working at the interface of plant chemistry and plant-insect interactions are particularly encouraged to apply. A Ph.D. in biochemistry, chemistry, biology or a closely-related field is required. The Department of Biological Sciences – in the School of the Environment, Arts, and Society within the College of Arts and Sciences – has 4,700 majors and 120 graduate students in fields ranging from cell and molecular biology to evolution and ecology. The successful candidate will become core faculty in the International Center for Tropical Botany (ICTB), a collaborative effort between FIU and the National Tropical Botanic Gardens to develop programs in research, education and outreach in tropical plant biology. The ICTB is building a world-class headquarters with offices, laboratories and meeting rooms, adjacent to the Kampong botanic gardens on Biscayne Bay in historic Coconut Grove. The candidate will be expected to conduct research including but not limited to: plant biochemistry, plant natural products, or plant secondary compounds. We are particularly interested in candidates who will utilize the living collections in the network of tropical botanic gardens sponsored by the NTBG and collaborators around the globe. The successful candidate will be expected to maintain an externally funded research program, supervise graduate students in our Ph.D. program, as well as teach undergraduate courses including Biochemistry and other courses in her/his area of expertise. Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply to Job Opening ID 510478 at facultycareers.fiu.edu and attach a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and statements of teaching philosophy and research interests in a single PDF file. Candidates will be requested to provide names and contact information for at least three references who will be contacted as determined by the search committee. To receive full consideration, applications and required materials should be received by November 20, 2015. Review will continue until position is filled. FIU is a member of the State University System of Florida and is an Equal Opportunity, Equal Access Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.