© Photo by Meghan Duda
Dr. Pamela Puppo is a Postdoctoral Fellow at North Dakota State University. Her research focuses mainly in plant diversification patterns, the factors promoting these diversifications, and the outcomes of it (taxonomy), using a wide arrange of approaches like phylogenetics, population genetics, and morphometrics. More recently, Pam has been using metabarcoding approaches to study plant-pollinator interactions. Some of Pam’s favorite aspects of being a scientist include: looking into the stereoscope to see minute parts of plants, the detective’s-like work of identifying a species and realizing its new to science, putting together a manuscript for publication, doing fieldwork in amazing places like the Andes or the Canary Islands, going to meetings in beautiful, remote places, meeting many incredible researchers, and teaching and inspiring the next generation of scientists. Some of Pam’s funniest stories include food poisoning during the last day of a conference (right before the excursion to the mountains!) and being stuck on a road in the Andes for three hours because of a llama race.
“First, I wanted to ‘save the rainforest’, then I wanted to ‘save the whales’ but then I took Botany 101 and fell in love with plants.”Dr. Pamela Puppo
Pam realized she wanted to become a biologist during her science classes in high school. Her scientific knowledge and interest blossomed during college: “First, I wanted to ‘save the rainforest’, then I wanted to ‘save the whales’ but then I took Botany 101 and fell in love with plants.” Pam is an artist at heart and this is one of the reasons she became a botanist. She discovered that she could express her love of drawing and painting through scientific illustration. In recent years, Pam’s artistic abilities found a way of expression through cake design; she owned and operated a small cake business called Pam Cakes while living in Portugal.
Pam is currently working with the ICE network to identify what plants Megachile rotundata bees (alfalfa leafcutters) use as provisions for their brood and what plants they use for building their nests. “We know they’re not alfalfa exclusives, but surprisingly, nobody in the group has really looked into this.” In the Spring of 2020, Dr. Puppo will be starting her own lab at Marshall University in West Virginia. When asked about her dream project, Pam would love to go back to study Andean plants and how the biogeography of the region impacted their diversification. She figures she’ll start on the Appalachians now that she’s moving in that direction.
The best advice Pam has received came from her undergraduate mentor: “your career is very important, but so is your personal life. Never forget that”.