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Submit Your Questions
Paid subscribers only. Deadline March 27th, 1998

Ask the Expert

Meet the Monarch Butterfly Expert

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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