Wild Voices: studying penguins from space and mastering the art of sci-comm, Dr Michelle LaRue

Dr Michelle LaRue is a research ecologist at the University of Minnesota. She’s a fascinating and inspiring conservationist who has developed innovative approaches, travelled the world and taken her conservation science communications to an extremely impressive level.
Michelle focuses on interdisciplinary tools, such as GIS (geographic information system) mapping and high-resolution satellite imagery, to study spatial and population dynamics of penguins, seals, cougars, and polar bears – species facing substantial conservation challenges as both the physical and social environments change across the world.
She’s also a science communicator and believes that making science accessible through approachability as a speaker is key to public engagement and science comprehension.
In this episode we cover her amazing wildlife experiences in the Antarctic and some of the lessons she has learned from mistakes or failures on fieldwork. We discuss the innovative techniques she has been using to study Weddell seals and penguin species in the Antarctic and what her research is revealing about the drivers of change we’re seeing in their populations. And she shares some of her tactics and techniques for undertaking science communications, including how to prepare for giving presentations.
You can find more about Michelle at drmichellelarue.com (spell it out), follow her on twitter @drmichellelarue and she also created the popular #CougarorNot hashtag which runs every Friday and I strongly recommend checking out (this is because she is also the Executive Director of the Cougar Network (www.cougarnet.org) in the US which we cover in the episode as well).
And if you’d like to help Michelle with her research then you can do so from your very own home. Visit www.tomnod.com (spell it out) to help her search satellite imagery of the Antarctic for traces of Weddell seals, and contribute to our growing understanding of where they are (and aren’t) found.
You may also want to watch Michelle’s talks at Ideacity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enFjxbqQovk&t=1s) and the Earth Optimism Summit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf5wJ2S898c).
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