Elsie Shogren

Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow, The Uy Lab

You work in a laboratory.  What are you currently researching?

I’m interested in how evolution, ecology, and behavior interact and how those interactions influence species’ evolutionary trajectories. In the Trop Bio Lab here at U of R I’m focusing on questions related to hybridization of bird species in the Solomon Islands, and trying to understand the drivers and consequences of gene flow between species.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

I’ve always loved spending time outdoors and learning about animals, but it wasn’t until I took ornithology my sophomore year of college that I really understood how I could combine those activities! I had an absolute blast working as a field technician that summer, getting up at 3:30 to catch birds before the sun came up, checking nests to measure chick growth and tracking adult foraging flights. After I graduated I took a few years to work as an assistant on different research projects while I figured out what I wanted to study. I kept coming back to questions about why birds do what they do – what are the selective forces that drive the evolution of these beautiful, crazy, weird fluffballs? So I’m super excited that I’ve been able to ask (and work on getting answers to) those kinds of questions throughout my PhD and now in my postdoc!

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?

Things almost never go quite as you’ve planned them… whether equipment breaks or a hurricane goes through your field site, there’s always going to be something that needs to be figured out on the fly. I’ve learned to try to be prepared for as many things as possible, but not get too upset if things go a bit sideways. At the end of the day I’ll still learn something, and it’s never quite as disastrous as it might seem at first.

How do you think our biology department stands out in comparison to other universities?

I love the emphasis that the university and department place on diversity and inclusion. I’m also so impressed by the commitment of undergraduate students to tackling in-depth, complex research questions. I’ve been very inspired by the support and mentorship that faculty provide to their research groups, especially given the challenges of the semester.

How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab?

I love reading and a good tv series or movie. Recently though, I’ve been spending time exploring Rochester’s parks and trails with our dog, Moxie. I get to enjoy being outside and she gets to smell all of the smells!