UO ecologist named to prominent early-career fellowship

A University of Oregon ecologist has been awarded a fellowship from the Ecological Society of America for research and outreach that has proven her an exceptional leader.

Lauren Ponisio, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, a member of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution and leader of the Ponisio Lab, was elected to a five-year term as an early-career fellow. The department and institute are part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Early Career Fellows are within eight years of completing their doctoral training; have advanced ecological knowledge and applications; and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a range of fields served by the society. The fellows program is in its 11th year.

“This fellowship made me really proud of all the exciting research and outreach to which my lab group has contributed,” Ponisio said. “I hope this role will give me more opportunities to mentor early career ecologists and bring attention to pollinator conservation.”

Dubbed “Queen of the Bees,” Ponisio has published research that has substantially advanced science’s understanding of how pollinator communities function, especially in relation to plant diversity, agriculture and wildfire. Her experiences as a Latina woman growing up in California’s Central Valley gave her an early interest in enhancing agricultural sustainability for both human health and biodiversity.

Her research has examined ways to persuade California almond growers to adopt more bee-friendly agricultural practices, and she is currently leading a study that could change how Northwest forestlands in the Pacific Northwest are managed to benefit wild bees.

In addition to advancing conservation and biodiversity, Ponisio has made collaboration, data analysis and accessibility hallmarks of her work. Committed to open science, she has made it a habit to publish her entire workflow, including data and code, to increase transparency and enable others to learn her methods.

Ponisio has also been a key figure both in teaching in and developing the UO’s undergraduate program in data science, which applies analysis techniques to domains across campus, from biology to business.

Ponisio was nominated by a group of colleagues from multiple universities, including UO biologists Brendan Bohannan; Bill Cresko, who also directs the president’s Data Science Initiative; and Lauren Hallett, who is a current early-career fellow.

“Lauren’s published lab documents have provided both the inspiration and template for us to increase the inclusivity of our lab groups through improved written guidelines on lab culture and expectations, and postdocs from labs across the department routinely seek out Lauren’s guidance on inclusive practices when starting their own labs,” the biologists’ nomination letter said.

More information about the Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is available on its website.

—By Anna Glavash Miller, College of Arts and Sciences