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Meet the Monarch Butterfly
Meet Monarch Butterfly Expert, Karen Oberhauser
University of Minnesota
Department of Ecology,
Evolution and Behavior
1) Any childhood memory that was important in guiding you into your occupation?;
how did you become interested in this Field?
My family spent a lot of time in the outdoors: camping, canoeing, and
2) Any person, role model or leading authority that greatly influenced you?
I'm not sure if this influenced my career decisions, but I've always known that I
wanted to be a biologist.
3) Your background:(job title, profession, education/training etc...)
I have an undergraduate degree in biology from Harvard University and a PhD from
the University of Minnesota in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavioral Biology. I taught
high school science in Onalaska, Wisconsin for three years before starting my PhD
work. My job now involves teaching college classes, most of them for teachers, advising
six graduate students who all study butterflies, and doing research on monarch butterflies.
4) Favorite work story or experience: (One of your most exciting, memorable, or
exhilarating experiences in the Field!)
This is an easy one. My first visit to the monarch overwintering sanctuaries in Mexico
was definitely a highlight! I'll never forget the feelings I had when I first saw
millions of monarchs clustered in oyamel fir trees on a mountaintop.
5) What advice can you provide to a student who might be interested in working
in your occupation some day?
Learn to ask questions!
6) Any family members, including pets?
I am the oldest of four girls, and have two daughters aged 8 and 11. My daughters
help me with my research and teaching every summer. My husband Don is also a biologist;
he studies a moth that is an important pest on corn. We have two cats, one dog, many
fish, and, in the summer, hundreds of monarch butterflies!
7) Favorite book(s), Favorite food(s), Any hobbies?
I read all the time; my favorite author is Barbara Kingsolver. My favorite food is
cheesecake, and the only hobby I still have time for is running, which I do for four
to seven miles every morning, even in the winter in Minnesota. I spend lots of time
watching my daughters play hockey!
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