Doris Soto

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

Degree                                          Ph.D.
Position                                        Professor
Department                                  Facultad de Pesquerias y oceanografía
Organization                                Universidad Austral de Chile

doris_sWhen did you become interested in ecology? Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?

I remember trying to get into marine biology when I finished high school but such an undergraduate program was not yet available in Chile. Then I went to the Faculty of Sciences, Universidad de Chile, where science became a fascination. I intended to follow biochemistry as a major, until I met the people who introduced me to Ecology and Limnology .

I met Professor Nibaldo Bahamonde (Chilean National Science award in 1997) with whom I took my first ecology course. I became enchanted with ecology and later on with limnology as I started my thesis work with Irma Vila, a Chilean Limnologist and my first research studying population ecology of silversides in a Reservoir.

How did you learn about ecological careers? What is your position title now?

As I pursued my undergraduate work at the faculty of Sciences and got involved in my thesis work, I met many Chilean and foreigner ecologists, particularly in aquatic sciences. Soon I became interested in pursuing a graduate program abroad.

Describe your route to a career in ecology. What challenges did you need to overcome? What was your training, and what positions have you held?

I had my first position as a research assistant at the Faculty of Sciences in 1975. Later, I obtained a Chilean government fellowship to pursue a PhD in Ecology, which I did in the Joint Doctoral Program between San Diego State and UC Davis. In San Diego, I did my dissertation research on zooplankton ecology under the advice of Stuart Hurlbert, one of the most important people in my scientific career. I learned to be critical of my work and careful with my writing, as well as lots of “true replication”. When I came back to Chile, I met the newly born salmon industry which I started my ecological research around.

I am currently Professor at Facultad de Pesquerías y Oceanografía of the Universidad Austral de Chile in Puerto Montt (my office faces the Fjord). I also hold a position as adjunct scientist at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook were I have had the support and wise advice of Gene Likens who truly helps at this stage in my career.

My first major challenge was getting used to written and spoken English. I like to talk, so this was a real challenge!! Good writing in English is still a challenge, especially when I have to write a paper and be precise. We often have to do the work twice because research results are also needed in Spanish, especially when related to resources management. Today we are working on a large and very exciting project, “the forest services to aquatic systems” (FORECOS). We are trying to find out the relevance of forests for salmon farming and trout sport fishing.

What key advice would you offer a student today?

I keep the tradition, so I tell my students to be to be critical, with themselves and with others but in a good sense,. But most important, I tell them to be open minded, Ecology is a broad science and the answers are often not beyond our eyes but we are usually too tide within our individual “field boxes”.

What advice do you have for communicating ecology to diverse audiences?

More than anything Ecology is a science and I interact a lot with the industry (Salmon farming, fishing, forestry) by using ecological tools for natural resources management. Objective problem solving and simple language seems to be the best communication approach, at least it works for me.

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