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Michelle Thompson

Degree: Ph.D. in Biology

College/School: School of Environment, Arts and Society, College of Arts, Sciences & Education

The world’s amphibians are facing an extinction crisis. Michelle Thompson is on the front lines of their conservation.

Originally from Redondo Beach, Calif., Michelle decided to pursue a career in biology after a field trip to Anza-Borrengo National Park in California. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego. After earning a master’s degree, Michelle came to FIU to study amphibian and reptile ecology and conservation alongside Maureen Donnelly in the Herpetology Lab. 

Michelle has dedicated her Ph.D. research to examining the effects of habitat change and loss — two of the biggest conservation threats — facing amphibians and reptiles in Costa Rica. Her work reveals the importance of vegetation growing near rivers, streams, lakes and lagoons as places of refuge for these threatened critters in changing landscapes. This can help resource managers pinpoint areas for conservation.

Michelle’s work has been recognized by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, an international society dedicated to the study of fish, reptiles and amphibians. She also earned a Fulbright U.S. Student Award allowing her to do research, live and serve as a cultural ambassador in Costa Rica.

Michelle is graduating with a Ph.D. in biology. She has been working for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago assessing conservation and management practices throughout South America. She will also examine the impacts of fungal diseases on amphibians in collaboration with FIU biologist Alessandro Catenazzi.

By Evelyn S. Gonzalez
Account Manager, College of Arts, Sciences & Education