Hello! from Laura J

  1. What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most interested in, scientifically?

I am from a small town in Michigan, USA. I went to school for a Bachelor of Music degree in an even smaller town in Michigan. I took a forest ecology class as a general requirement of my degree. In that class, I fell in love with nature and science, especially bird song. For my Master of Science in biology, I studied Carolina Chickadee song types and use. I enjoyed studying birds, but wanted to work at the ecosystem and landscape levels of ecology. This led me to my current position as a PhD student at Purdue University working broadly in plant ecology and carbon storage, with a focus on roots.


  1. What are your goals for the upcoming course in Peru? How will you know if you’ve met these goals?

My goals for the PFTC in Peru are:

  1. to learn how to work collaboratively with other researchers both in person and through email/Skype/Slack.
  2. to get hands on experience in collecting and analyzing trait data.
  3. to learn proper data management practices.


I’ll know I’ve met these goals if the group I work with are able to stay in touch following the in-person part of the course to produce a manuscript we are proud of; I am able to take what I have learned back to my lab group at Purdue to teach them about PFT ecology and apply this knowledge to my own research; and if I can stop making a mess of all of my hard drives of data and document everything as I go instead of waiting until a project is finished to write down what every spreadsheet contains.


  1. What are you most excited about, with respect to the upcoming course and trip?

I am most excited to work with researchers from outside of the US. I have enjoyed doing so in the past as I find it to be eye opening and rewarding to get different perspectives on science, society, and culture. I am also excited to receive a more formal education in plant functional trait ecology. Finally, I am very excited to work in a remote field site; I’ve recently switched from doing mostly fieldwork to doing mostly modeling and coding. I miss the outdoors!


  1. What do you anticipate people will think about climate change in Peru? Do you think most people will accept that the planet is warming, and that this is largely being caused by human activities? Or will this topic be controversial?

I anticipate that people in Peru recognize that the climate is changing, and this recognition will be more pronounced in rural communities than in large cities like Cusco. I expect that there will be mixed opinions on whether climate change is caused by humans. I am very interested to know how people perceive climate change in Peru as I know so little about the country.


  1. What do you know about public perceptions of climate change in your home country? What, if anything, have you experienced related to public perceptions of climate change?

My knowledge of public perceptions of climate change in the US is probably very biased as I live in a university town (a relatively liberal bubble). Most people I encounter believe climate change is a real concern and that it is being caused by humans. However, there is a large body of people that either outright deny the existence of climate change or acknowledge that climate change is happening, but do not think it is caused by humans. There is also a non-trivial number of people who believe that the US is not contributing as much to climate change as other developing countries (e.g. China, India, EU countries). As many know, the US government is controlled by a party and a buffoon of a man that deny the existence of climate change, and I believe that many, but not all, of the supporters of this party share that belief.


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