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My research experiences have taken me from the Midwest U.S. to some of the most remote places in the Antarctic. I began my career as an undergraduate researcher, sorting through hoary bat guano to do diet analysis - and I never turned back. After modeling habitat and dispersal corridors for cougars, distance sampling of deer, old-growth forest inventory, I ended up at the University of Minnesota in 2007. I started out as the GIS lead for the Polar Geospatial Center and eventually pursued my PhD in Conservation Biology. My dissertation work has continued as my current research, and focuses on using high-resolution satellite imagery to learn about the ecology of polar animals: emperor penguins, Adélie penguins, Weddell seals, and even polar bears and muskoxen. This is a new and exciting method to learn about the population dynamics, biogeography, and effects of climate change on polar vertebrates, and I've been part of many "species from space" studies: the first global censuses of both Antarctic penguins, Weddell seal population change, and "polar bears from space". I also continue to work on cougar range expansion as the executive director of the Cougar Network. My work has been covered internationally by hundreds of media outlets including BBC, NBC Nightly News, Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic (see Speaking, News).


In addition to my research, I'm passionate about science communication. Twitter is my jam (@drmichellelarue) and in addition to creating the popular #CougarOrNot hashtag, I've curated @realscientsts (here) & @biotweeps (here). I also give several keynote speeches a year. I've presented at IdeaCity about emperor penguin behavior, the Gordon Research Conference about effects of climate change on Adélie penguins, and I spoke about Weddell seals and citizen science at the Earth Optimism Summit on Earth Day 2017.


Check out my speaking page

Donate to my Penguin Research Fund

Michelle LaRue & Weddell seals, (c) Lucy Howell



Antarctic ecology and conservation

Penguin and seal ecology, biogeography, climate change, Southern Ocean conservation


Research on Weddell seals

Research on Emperor penguins

2011-2014  PhD  Conservation Biology

University of Minnesota

Remote sensing of penguins and seals in Antarctica

Remote sensing & GIS as conservation tools

Using high-resolution satellite imagery to study populations & habitat of polar animals

Cougar range expansion in North America

Habitat, population viability, and conservation of mountain lions in the Midwest

Science communication in conservation

Focus on making science accessible through my research, photos, and experiences

2005-2007  MS  Zoology

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Cougar habitat and dispersal modeling

2001-2005  BS  Ecology

Minnesota State University Mankato

Undergraduate research on hoary bats, white-tail deer ecology

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