From animal plant worker to international pioneer in conservation biology research


Roisin Stanbrook tried to ignore his love of insects by studying computer coding in his freshman year of college. It didn’t stick.

She ended up dropping out of school and working in a pet store. But she couldn’t resist her interest in insects, especially when she saw an advertisement about an opportunity to participate in a conservation project in Africa. After a few days there, she got hooked. She applied to go back to college before boarding her plane home. She didn’t look back.

Today, the UCF post-doctoral researcher conducts nationally and internationally funded research on dung beetles, which play a vital role in various ecosystems. When they dig into the ground and consume the droppings of other animals, they help improve the soil for new growth. Poop bugs play an invaluable role in agriculture.

Rainbow beetle, one of the most common dung beetles in Florida. (Photo by Roisin Stanbrook)

Stanbrook, from Ireland, shares his expertise on dung beetles with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), a National Science Foundation program run by the research organization Batelle. NEON collects long-term ecological data in open access to better understand the evolution of ecosystems. The project lasts 20 years and cost $ 460 million to set up at 81 sites in 20 eco-climatic zones across the United States, from Alaska to Puerto Rico.

“As a conservation biologist focused on conservation of insects, I am so privileged to be able to work with a forward thinking organization like NEON,” she says.

Stanbrook provides recommendations to NEON on scientific protocols related to ground beetle sampling for all collection sites. In recognition of his incredible work and impact, NEON features Stanbrook this month on their website.

At UCF, she works with Associate Professor of Biology Joshua King. Among his research projects:

  • Examine the effects of ranching and climate instability on dung beetle and associated ecosystem functioning in the Southeastern United States, a USDA-funded project based at the Archbold Biological Station in the United States. south Florida.
  • Exploration of the relationship between the decrease in dung beetle diversity and the functioning of ecosystems in the Afromontane forests of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area protected by UNESCO in Tanzania.

One of the first species Stanbrook discovered also sits next to one of Charles Darwin’s finds at the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum. Not bad for a career that almost didn’t happen, she says.

“I haven’t had the most traditional trip, but it’s totally worth it,” she says. “This is an important and crucial time to work in conservation, as the actions we take now can impact how we develop approaches to prevent further extinction of species and how we understand the effects of human activities on insect diversity. This is what motivates me, knowing that the plans we are putting in place today have a crucial role to play in tilting the balance towards maintaining biodiversity.


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