Faculty 360 | Laura Russo

Dr. Russo joined UTIA in March of 2019 and has a 90 percent research and 10 percent teaching appointment. Her research primarily focuses on pollinator ecology, invasion biology, and network theory. Russo received her PhD in ecology from Pennsylvania State University in 2013. She has lived in fifteen states and three countries, and has traveled on six continents. She enjoys learning something new everywhere she goes.

When I'm not working, I like to be outside! I love hiking, biking, exploring, and taking photographs of birds, insects, and reptiles. I also spend a lot of time these days searching for aggregations of ground-nesting bees, an occupation that overlaps with my research.

In the field of pollinator ecology, the most pressing issue is accumulating enough data to understand patterns in these diverse and highly mobile organisms. For the vast majority of pollinating insects, we understand very little about their natural history and lack long-term monitoring data that would help us determine whether their populations are declining, or why. An associated issue is the challenge of the taxonomy...many of these organisms are difficult and time-consuming to identify to the species level, and we need more skilled taxonomists to keep up with the number of specimens we are collecting.

A favorite part of my job is the ways in which nature constantly surprises and amazes me. There is always more to learn and, in particular, sharing this excitement with students is very rewarding. Science allows us to explore questions about the natural world, to generate questions related to our curiosity, and to attempt to answer them.

Something that excites me about being part of the UTIA community is an opportunity to collaborate with the experts in a wide range of fields.

The best thing about UTIA is the numerous collaboration opportunities available across different disciplines and the excellent support from the administration to promote collaboration.

As a scientist, Iím a fan of uncertainty. Scientists have to be comfortable expressing and quantifying the uncertainty around the topics of their expertise. Most natural systems are extremely variable and depend on a huge number of interacting organisms, processes, and abiotic factors. This means that we are less in the business of providing answers, and more in the business of asking the right questions to illuminate the limits of our knowledge.