Margarita Maria Lopez-Uribe, Entomologist

What is your job description?

I am an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the departments of Entomology and Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University.


What do you study now?

I am interested in understanding how environmental change and life-history traits affect demography and long-term persistence of populations. Identifying how extrinsic (e.g. landscape change, pathogens) and intrinsic (e.g. body size, physiological constraints) factors drive population growth or decline has direct implications for species conservation and preservation of ecosystem function. Declines in bee populations worldwide have raised concerns about the environmental and economic consequences of pollination loss for natural and agricultural ecosystems. My ultimate goal is to identifying causes for these declines to contribute with informed strategies for conservation and restoration of bee populations and the ecosystem services they provide. At the moment, I am mainly working on two projects: 1) I am investigating how urbanization affects immune response and pathogen intensity of native bee fauna, and 2) I am studying the consequences of the evolution of sociality on the immune system of insects.

What is the best thing about your job?

Being able to do what I like. I do some teaching, but I spend most of my time doing research and mentoring amazing students. I’m passionate about bees and I investigate different aspects of their ecology, evolutionary history and how they respond to environmental changes driven by humans. I have fun studying these insects and that makes me very happy. I think this is the best about my job, I have fun working.

orchid bee
What is the worst thing about your job?

This is a 24/7 job and it can be hard to achieve a healthy point of life-work balance. I really struggle with that.

What inspired you to first study science?

Since I was in high school, I was always interested in trying to explain things. I wasn’t born a biologist. I hardly had contact with nature in my childhood. However, I was always a curious person. Studying biology not only gave me the opportunity to do science but also to be more in contact with nature, which is one of things that I enjoy the most.
margarita lopez in rainforest

What do you do in a typical day?

I spend some time in the field, laboratory and in front of the computer. In the Spring and Summer times, I spend most days out in the field collecting bees. During Fall and Winter, I work in the lab in the mornings and spend the afternoons in front of the computer reading and writing papers.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a biologist?

My advice to young people who want to become biologists is to spend time outside observing all the life forms around us. The most interesting things about biology are yet to be discovered!

Margarita on BCI – Research in Panama

In 2007,  we spent 6 months documenting some of the research going on in Panama. Margarita was one of them. Here is a clip. Keep a close eye for Margarita’s research on orchid bees.

More about Margarita