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NMSU Fish, Wildlife leader sees need for doctorate program in department

Kathryn Stoner brings a lengthy research background as the new department head for the Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Ecology Department at New Mexico State University.

Kathryn Stoner in hiking attire with Indonesian backdrop of remote field site
Kathryn Stoner at the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation Meeting in Indonesia after hiking 20 miles to a remote field site where she observed orangutans. (Photo courtesy of Kathryn Stoner)

Stoner joins NMSU after working for almost 15 years at the Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in central Mexico. Stoner's area of expertise encompasses themes including ecology and conservation of mammals, tropical ecology, fragmentation and plant-animal interactions.

Much of her work has focused on the linkage between habitat changes due to human disturbance and land-use change. Some of her recent research evaluates the role of spider monkeys in the regeneration of forest fragments. A recent topic she has worked on is how changes in bat community assemblages occur during the process of fragmentation and natural succession and the implications this has for forest regeneration.

Although most of her research experience until this point has been largely Neotropical, Stoner is interested in initiating new research in the southwestern U.S. on the devastating white-nose syndrome, the fungal infection that has wiped out U.S. bat populations during the last 10 years. A research theme she is interested in is the effect of wind turbines on bat mortality in New Mexico.

Stoner received her bachelor's in zoology-anthropology and her master's in biological anthropology from the University of Michigan. She received her Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Kansas where she promptly began working for the Organization for Tropical Studies as director of the Palo Verde Biological Station in northeastern Costa Rica.

"I am really excited about being here. I think NMSU is an excellent university and the FWCE department has tremendous potential to grow and to contribute to the continued development of the great people of New Mexico," Stoner said.

As department head, Stoner will strive to maintain and improve good working relationships with both state and federal agencies involved in wildlife work throughout the state.

"I will continue to pursue a doctorate program for our department," Stoner said. "I know there's a desire for it by the faculty and a need by the students too."

"FWCE faculty do a lot of research, are expected to and want to," Stoner said. "They will be more productive if they can have doctorate students within the department and this will greatly benefit the students, as well."

Although Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Ecology does not yet have a doctoral program of its own, Stoner said there is a push to develop a joint program involving other departments within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. She emphasized the value of interdisciplinary programs as they provide students with different perspectives.

Stoner is excited to teach courses and expressed her passion for hands-on learning. She especially enjoys teaching field courses and hopes to develop or collaborate with an existing tropical ecology course, so she can share her knowledge and enthusiasm about the tropics with NMSU students.

"That's what excited me about this field," Stoner said. "The first time I went to the tropics and saw the tremendous biodiversity of plants and animals I knew this is what I wanted to study."

Stoner grew up on a ranch in Wyoming, nurturing her interest in animals and the outdoors. Her dissertation research in Costa Rica, published in Conservation Biology, was among the first studies that documented the prevalence and intensity of intestinal parasites in wild howler monkeys.

For more information on the Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Ecology Department or Stoner visit: http://aces.nmsu.edu/academics/fws/index.html