Cecilia Nuñez (2004)

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.

Degree                                               Ph.D.
Position                                             Assistant Postdoctoral position
Department                                       Dr. Brewer’s Lab
Organization                                     University of Montana

ceciliaWhen I was a child, my parents and my grandfather nurtured in me a deep love for nature. As a teenager, I had the fortune to live in a city located in the Andes in Patagonia with gorgeous surroundings, and to participate in mountain hiking activities organized by the Club Andino Bariloche. The mountain guides there, in particular Hugo Jung fueled my interest for nature. It was as an undergraduate student when I learned about biology as a science. As I also was interested in teaching, I worked on two degrees at the same time, the “Profesorado” degree, in order to be able to teach in schools, and the “Licenciatura” degree, to pursue a career in scientific research. During my undergraduate studies at Universidad Nacional del Comahue (UNCo), in Argentina, my interaction with professors and researchers influenced me to pursue a career in plant ecology.

When I was about to finish my Licenciatura degree, I met Dr. Carol Brewer, who at the time was doing research on leaf wetness in southern Argentina. Meeting Dr. Brewer was very important for my career because, about a year later, I had the opportunity to move to the U.S.A. to start graduate studies at the University of Montana (UM) in the city of Missoula, where I met other great professors. Dr. Brewer led me into the field of plant ecophysiology, my current interest. I did my Ph.D. research on the physiological ecology of male and female trees of an austral conifer, Austrocedrus chilensis, along a rainfall gradient in Patagonia.

My professional training has focused in botany, ecology and eco-physiology of plants and in teaching. During my undergraduate and graduate studies, I worked as mountain guide for kids, a high school biology teacher, a research fellow for Fundación YPF and for UNCo (Argentina), an a outreach courses instructor, teaching assistant at UNCo (Argentina) and at Univ. of Montana (U.S.A.). I just finished a Ph.D. in Organismal Biology and Ecology at UM, and currently have an Assistant Postdoctoral position in Dr. Brewer’s Lab. I am in the process of returning to my country (Argentina) to start postdoctoral research next year at Laboratorio ECOTONO, UNCo in the Patagonian city of Bariloche.One of the major challenges that I, and most of my colleagues, had to overcome for doing scientific research and education in Argentina is the context: scarcity of funding and support, poor interest of governments for science and education, bureaucracy and socio-economical instability. This makes research and teaching in Argentina (and in most Latin American countries) rather adventurous.

My advice for students would be to get as much experience as they can early on, to interact with different researchers asking many questions, to take the initiative for doing and learning, to look for positions or volunteer as a field assistant, to learn a second language and travel to know other cultures and environments.

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