I am a PhD candidate in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. Broadly speaking, I’m interested in how marine animals move through and inhabit their environment–which is often unpredictable, patchy, and turbulent–and how the decisions of individuals lead to the distribution of populations. To get at these questions, I use a mixture of remote sensing, modeling, and ecological theory.
My dissertation research is on the movement behaviors of common terns at Great Gull Island, NY, as they forage for fish in the surrounding waters. I use a scanning radar to track the terns, which lets me observe hundreds to thousands of birds at once without tagging them. I also use active acoustics (i.e., scientific fishfinders) to map the distribution of the small fish the birds eat. I have worked on other topics too, including zooplankton in mountain lakes, the distribution of juvenile pollock in the Bering Sea, and deep scattering layers in Monterey Bay.
Before coming to Stony Brook, I got a master’s degree in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, and a BS in Earth Systems at Stanford University. I grew up in Brookline, MA, just outside of Boston. When I’m not sciencing, I like cooking and eating food, reading, nature watching, and people watching.
Dr. Michelle LaRue is a research ecologist at the University of Minnesota, where she uses GIS and remote sensing tools to study the biogeography and effects of climate change on populations of Emperor and Adélie penguins, Weddell seals, polar bears, and mountain lions. Michelle received her bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State University Mankato in 2005 where she worked as an intern for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, studying chronic wasting disease, habitat use, and distance sampling methods for estimating populations of white-tailed deer. She then moved on to her master’s degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she developed a habitat model and dispersal corridors for cougars recolonizing the midwestern portion of North America. After providing GIS analysis and assistance for the United States Antarctic Program for 4 years, Michelle decided to pursue her PhD in conservation biology at the University of Minnesota. Michelle’s doctoral work included developing GIS/remote sensing methods for assessing populations of penguins and seals in the Antarctic and has since added a methods development project for assessing polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. Her work has resulted in the first ever population estimates of two penguin species, launched her to the executive director position of The Cougar Network, and has been covered by hundreds of media outlets internationally, including BBC, National Geographic, NBC Nightly News, and the Wall Street Journal.