Michelle is a Lecturer of Polar Marine Ecology at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch NZ, where she jokes that she spies on animals from space for a living – more technically speaking, she studies biogeography and population dynamics of Antarctic penguins and seals using high-resolution satellite imagery. Her primary goal is to learn about how Southern Ocean predators respond to environmental changes at many spatial scales, ranging from the population to continent-wide, in the hopes of informing conservation and management in the world’s coldest ocean.
Michelle earned her PhD in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota in 2014 and has spent more than 260 days on the ice across 8 field campaigns so far in her career. She first fell in love with ecology and research as an undergraduate intern studying food habits of bats and habitat use of white-tail deer at Minnesota State University Mankato in the early 2000’s. This work propelled her to a master’s degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she focused on eastward range expansion of cougars in midwestern North America. For more than a decade, Michelle has honed her research and communication skills, worked as private consultant, published more than two dozen papers, and lead field teams in the Dry Valleys, Erebus Bay, the Peninsula, and aerial surveys over Victoria Land. Her work has resulted in several awards, including American Media & Publishing’s Gold EXCEL award and she recently received the University of Canterbury’s Emerging Researcher Award.
Michelle’s passion for science communication has resulted in more than 50 invited presentations ranging from guest lectures to prestigious meetings like Gordon Research Conference, IdeaCity, and the World Science Conference in Brisbane. Her internationally recognized research has been covered by more than 800 media outlets, including TV and radio interviews on NBC Nightly News, BBC, and NPR, and articles in The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, and Scientific American.