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Featured Student Friday: Beatriz Lopez Gutierrez, PhD Student

Each week, SFRC highlights a fantastic student or alumnus for #FeaturedStudentFriday. Today’s feature is PhD student and graduate research assistant Beatriz Lopez Gutierrez.

“My name is Bea and I am a PhD student starting my third year at the Geomatics Department. I met my current supervisor, Dr. Eben Broadbent, during a workshop in the Osa Peninsula (Costa Rica) back in 2016. In the Osa, I led monitoring and conservation programs ranging from sea turtles or macro invertebrates to wildcats. A single look into the LiDAR virtual forests that Dr. Broadbent brought along, was enough to convince me that integrating remote sensing technology into my work could help advance research and conservation efforts in this and other regions; thus I became a member of the SPEC Lab.

Once at UF and more particularly at the SFRC, I realised that I could also integrate other disciplines into my work, for example, social science or community management. This is surely the best thing about my current position; having access to all sorts of information, resources, knowledge, and expertise, both in the SFRC and in other departments such as Wildlife Ecology and Conservation or the Department Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management.

The integration of multiple disciplines to understand, minimise, and/or solve complex questions, issues, or problems regarding the conservation of natural resources, is something that drives me. This includes social problems driving the decline of wildlife species or their habitats. I really believe that the future of biological/ecological conservation includes local communities; this concept and how to integrate it into my current and future research has become increasingly important to me.

Right now, I am at the field at the Osa Peninsula evaluating butterfly composition in a forest gradient (pasture to primary forest) using two baits (fermented bananas and rotten fish). Volunteers, students, and community groups are collaborating with my efforts helping data collection and management. In the future, monitoring efforts will continue in the restoration plots, with the help of a local NGO, becoming the first initiative using butterflies to monitor restoration efforts. This could be the best memory at SFRC.

I have always been very determined towards achieving my goals and coming from a low income family, working hard has been a constant. I guess we all struggle to get where we are, low pay, sometimes free, long hours, basic conditions, female scientist, etc. But, I prefer to think positive and bring a loud smile to the world, I remember how privileged I have been, all the places I have visited, the people I have meet, the experiences and knowledge I have gained. So if you are starting out your career don’t forget to think about those often and you will be fine!”

Do you know a student or alumni who is making an impact in their field? Email us at sfrcnews@ifas.ufl.edu!