Michelle LaRue is a research ecologist and speaker at the University of Minnesota, where she focuses on ecological and conservation issues from North America to Antarctica. Her research centers on the distribution, habitat, and effects of human impacts on populations of Emperor and Adélie penguins, Weddell seals, polar bears, and cougars. Her work has resulted in the first ever population estimates of two penguin species, informed the United States’ proposal for the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, and launched her to the executive director position of The Cougar Network, which is the premiere research organization tracking cougar range expansion in North America.
Michelle started her research career working as an undergraduate intern studying food habits of bats and habitat use of white-tail deer at Minnesota State University Mankato. This work propelled her to a master’s degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she focused on potential habitat and eastward range expansion of cougars in the United States. Since then, Michelle has not only honed her research and communication skills, but she has worked as private consultant and grant-writer, published more than a dozen papers, and lead a field team in Antarctica for five seasons before finishing her PhD in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota in 2014. Over the past ten years, her research has been covered by hundreds of media outlets, including articles in The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, and The Guardian, and TV and radio interviews on NBC Nightly News, BBC, and NPR.