Welcome Kathryn Stewart - New SE

Submitted by editor on 18 March 2021.

Join us at Oikos in welcoming our new Subject Editor Kathryn Stewart! She is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam. Read about her research interests and background in the following interview:


1. What's your main research focus at the moment?

My research uses molecular tools to understand biodiversity; (i) processes that drive or diminish rates of diversification in changing environments among individuals, populations and species, and (ii) practical applications quantifying biodiversity and preventing its loss (namely, environmental DNA or ‘eDNA’). I combine genomic insights with other data across a range of taxa (frogs, lizards, birds, mammals, invertebrates) to create a hypothesis-driven research program that aims to incorporate the full spectrum of scientific work - from discovery to application.

2. Can you describe your research career? Where, what, when?

I originally hail from Canada where my love of nature and wildlife began. My Ph.D at Queen’s University (Canada) investigated hybridization dynamics in one of North America’s most common (and smallest) frog species. This involved extensive field and molecular work which satisfied two my fascinations, the natural world and innovative technologies to identify and quantify it. From there, I headed to Shanghai, China, where I headed my own lab using eDNA tools to inform conservation initiatives for a critically endangered mammal across the Yangtze River Delta. While maintaining this research in collaboration with Tongji University (China) and Queen’s University (Canada), I moved to the Netherlands to start a postdoc at the University of Amsterdam in the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics where I investigate the gene-by-environment interactions underpinning phenotypically plastic responses to environmental change.

3. Why did you become a scientist in ecology?

As a young child, my family’s decision to make most of our holidays into full-blown camping events in the deep woods, almost certainly shaped my obsession with the natural world. The mere idea of making a career out of understanding and promoting nature was tantamount to a fairytale. To this very day, you’re equally likely to find me chasing snakes, frogs, and canoeing through the wilderness, or draped in a lab coat hunched over a fumehood.

4. What do you do when you're not working?

As a new mom, my goal is to introduce my child to the wonders of the natural world and instill a sense of stewardship. To do this, we hike and explore as much as possible and in the most feral way that could still be deemed ‘tolerable’ to normal society.

Keywords: Evolutionary genetics, environmental DNA, conservation, hybridization, speciation, phenotypic plasticity

Personal Website: kathrynstewart.info

Twitter: @Kat_A_Stewart