GWISE interviews LACS Fellowship winner Anna Thonis

Name: Anna Thonis

Education: Double B.S. (2017) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Environmental Science (concentration: Geology) and Sustainability Studies. M.S. (2018) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Biological Sciences. Currently pursuing a PhD in Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University.
Research: My research focuses on improving the predictive performance of species distribution models by incorporating hurricane data and field-collected competition data into the models. I am using all ten species of Puerto Rican Anolis lizards as my study system.   
Future goal(s): Following my PhD, I would like to complete a postdoc focusing on tropical lizard conservation. I hope to secure a postdoc that allows me to conduct field work in the Caribbean or in South America (most ideally in Ecuador’s Amazon because there are so many little-studied lizard species there!). My ultimate goal is to secure a professor position. 

When did you know you were interested in pursuing a degree in science? Who (or what) sparked your interest in this field?: I don’t know when I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in science. Honestly, I don’t think pursuing a career in any field outside of science ever crossed my mind. I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors in nature and around wildlife since I was very young, and I feel that I was raised with an inherent passion and devotion to the environment and to wildlife. This is undoubtedly because of both of my parents. They consistently encouraged me to follow my interests and because we constantly spent time outdoors and in nature, my interest for the environment and wildlife took off from a very young age. 

What is your research topic and why is it important?: My research topic is a combination of population ecology, conservation biology, quantitative ecology, and herpetology. The lizards I work on (Genus Anolis) represent roughly 10% of the world’s lizard species, but we know very little about their ecology, their population trends, and therefore whether or not they are or will be of conservation concern under climate change. My work is important because it aims to enhance our understanding of how anoles – an incredibly diverse and widely-distributed genus – may be impacted by climate change through time. If a species is predicted to be of conservation concern over the long-term, conservation management can plan accordingly to ensure this species is protected through time. 

You recently won a Stony Brook LACS (Latin American and Caribbean Studies) Research Fellowship! How did that feel? What was the first thought that went through your head?: I was incredibly excited to learn that I received a Stony Brook LACS Research Fellowship! Puerto Rico is a place close to my heart, and the people and wildlife there are immensely important to me. Knowing that the Stony Brook center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies supports my work and believes it has value is a special and wonderful affirmation for me and my research. 

Do you have any tips or advice for others applying to the LACS Fellowship?:   When I was working on my LACS Fellowship, I focused mostly on the work I’ll be doing in Puerto Rico (the location of my field work) and the field methods. Because I was applying for funds from LACS related to travel to Puerto Rico, I wanted to highlight the work I’ll be doing once in Puerto Rico. I did not dive in to all of the quantitative details in the application because the LACS Fellowship was not funding my quantitative analyses, but rather was funding my work in Puerto Rico. 

What do you think needs to happen for there to be more women in science?: 
I think there needs to continue to be this growing effort to show women of all backgrounds at a young age that they are just as capable of being in STEM as anyone else. I also believe that many women are not aware of all the possible career paths available in STEM and so I think the wide variety of STEM career paths needs to be amplified and shared more broadly.

Author: sbugwise

We are the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering group at Stony Brook University and we are dedicated to supporting women in STEM fields.

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