Adriana Maldonado-Chaparro - Postdoctoral researcher at Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Most of my family and friends thought I was going to become a medical doctor like my father. I grew up around medical books and hospitals. It was an interesting childhood playing doctor and reading my Dad’s books to learn about diseases. I must say, I liked medicine, but things don’t always turn out the way people expect. During high school my interests changed and I became interested in knowing why people behaved the way they do. Yes, human behavior was the reason why I went to college to study Biology. I took a lecture in animal and human behavior which opened a whole new world for me – the world of animal behavior! In the beginning, I was mostly interested in learning about animal behavior from a mechanistic perspective, and I even started a study group in neurobiology but later I took a more ecological approach.
For my Master’s, I combined two areas of interest: behavioral ecology and conservation biology, in a very exciting project with wild capybaras in the eastern wetlands in Colombia. It was my first real experience doing research with wild animals. I loved it and I wanted to keep doing it! I had the chance to work as an instructor where I was totally involved in the academic environment while doing research. That was the breakthrough that helped me decide on my long-term career goal to become a professor. Since then, my path has been more clear. So, I moved to the US to do my PhD studying how yellow-bellied marmots (yet another rodent!) respond to climate change and how this affected their population dynamics. Capybaras and marmots are social animals, and sociality affects population dynamics. So now, as a postdoc, I’m focusing on understanding how individual differences in social behavior can affect group-level dynamics using birds as my study system! So far, it has been a very exciting journey. I hope for more adventures in this journey, and to be able to integrate my knowledge in social behavior into conservation strategies.