Voices of UF/IFAS: Rachel Mallinger
Name: Rachel Mallinger
Position: Assistant Professor of Entomology
Hometown: Saint Paul, MN
Years with UF/IFAS: 5
Describe your role at UF/IFAS: I have a 60% research, 25% extension, and 15% teaching appointment. My programs focus on pollination ecology and pollinator conservation. My research addresses many areas. Enhancing our understanding of pollinator ecology, behavior, and life history with a focus on native, wild bees; Investigating the effects of disturbances and conservation on pollinator communities; Elucidating floral traits that drive pollinator recruitment and pollination success, and determining pollination requirements of crop and wild plant species. I strive to conserve pollinators and enhance pollination services to both crops and wild plants. Finally, I teach a course on pollinator ecology.
How did your background/experiences shape your interest in your current field? I was definitely not a bug kid. Honestly, I wasn’t even really an outdoorsy kid. I grew up in a city and I had little exposure to agriculture. But I always loved biology and majored in it during my undergrad at Kalamazoo College. While in college, I studied abroad in Thailand and took courses on sustainable agriculture and ecology. This led to my senior research project on integrated pest management in apple crops. I grew more interested in the intersection between ecology and agriculture, and I also discovered that I loved to research and do fieldwork.
What inspires you and what are your hobbies? I am inspired by the opportunity to make a difference in food production and conservation through my work with farmers and other land managers. All of the women scientists who came before me and broke barriers in academia inspire me as well. I especially admire women who managed to have a career and a family, something I struggle to balance every day. As for work-related inspiration, I am inspired by the organisms I study. Particularly the solitary bees. I always find inspiration when I am in the field observing plants and pollinators.
For hobbies, I find myself doing whatever my five-and-a-half-year-old wants to do when I am not at work. But I try to find time to dance, walk in the woods, and swim in the springs. I am hoping to take up kayaking and scuba diving now that I am a Floridian. But, I am still searching for something to replace my favorite hobby, cross-country skiing!