New Faculty Profile: Anahí Espíndola

This profile is part of a series of New Faculty Profiles that highlight and introduce up-and-coming PIs in SSE. We invite highlighted faculty to discuss their research, describe how SSE has impacted their career, and share any tips or stories they may have for other researchers.

Anahí Espíndola
Assistant Professor
Department of Entomology
University of Maryland, College Park
Start date: August 2018

PhD: University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Advisors: Dr. Nadir Alvarez, Dr. Martine Rahier.
Post-doc: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho. Advisors: Dr. Scott Nuismer, Dr. Jack Sullivan, Dr. David Tank.

About the department:

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland, College Park. The breadth of the research done in the Department allows us to combine state-of-the-art basic research with applied work in outreach and extension. The Department is also unique in the fact that we have a Faculty sex-ratio of 1:1, the reflection of a long-term commitment to fair hiring.

About the research:

I am an evolutionary ecologist, and am interested in understanding how the abiotic and biotic environment affects the way species interact and diversify. My research focuses mostly on pollination systems and a big part of my focus is now on the New World plant genus Calceolaria and its oil-bees of genera Chalepogenus and Centris. Another complementary part of my research is focused on identifying how the landscape affects pollination interactions in fragmented landscapes, something that has important implications for both our understanding of the evolution and ecology of communities, and their conservation. To study these topics, I combine phylogenetic, spatial, and ecological methods, using both experimental/field data and computational tools.

What has been the biggest challenge as a new PI so far?

Taking the responsibility of making decisions that I know will impact other people’s careers.

What has been the biggest surprise so far about being a new PI?

The strong support and help I receive from all my colleagues in the Department and Colleges I am associated with.

How do you/will you approach mentoring new lab members?

I feel strongly about helping people in their careers. Being a Latina makes me extremely aware of the difficulties underrepresented groups have to access leadership roles, and of the small number of role models present for those groups. I want to be both a supportive and strong advisor who provides opportunities to my lab members. My goal is to create an inclusive, respectful and creative environment that allows everybody to succeed.

Are you recruiting? If so, how do you/ will you choose new lab members?

Even though the application deadlines for the next Fall are now closed, I am always looking for motivated and creative new lab members!

When and why did you become a SSE member?

When I finished my PhD in Switzerland, my advisor offered me a membership to SSE as a ‘farewell gift’. I didn’t realize at the time how important this was, and how much it would impact my career. I’ll be forever thankful for that gift.

What does becoming a SSE member mean to you or your career?

SSE allows me to connect with other evolutionary biologists and ecologists, and to access high-level research from all around the world.

Besides research, how do you promote science? / How do you think evolutionary research benefits society?

I usually like talking about what I do and how it impacts people’s lives with whoever wants to talk to me. However, I think that one of the actions I feel the proudest about in my science ‘outreach’ was being elected to participate as a Lead Author in the first UN-mandated IPBES report on pollinators, pollination, and food production ( Here, my ‘hybrid’ evolutionary and ecological background was extremely useful, because I could contribute with an evolutionary perspective in a theme that is usually considered mostly from an ecological point of view, making the report more all-encompassing. The work we did along with other world experts in pollination led to the production of documents that can be directly used by stakeholders, and led sometimes very directly to many of the changes in policies and actions that we are now seeing globally in respect to pollinator policies. This experience was absolutely humbling and rewarding, and even though it was a LOT of work, I would not hesitate a second to do it all over again if the opportunity came up.

Do you have a time management tip to share?

I make long-term goals and have a long-term plan. From there, I can identify specific actions that will make me reach my goals. I then use those actions to create to-do lists for each year, semester, month, week, day, etc. Having lists and holding myself accountable for doing the things on the list makes me organize my time and get stuff done, and helps me set priorities.

What book should every evolutionary biologist read?

Tree Thinking, by Baum and Smith.
Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary.
The Malay Archipelago, by Alfred Wallace.

What one piece of advice would you give to a starting graduate student?

Be creative, be a good person, and know why you’re going into a graduate program and what you want to get out of it.

What one piece of advice would you give to a postdoc?

Set goals and start applying for jobs even if you think you’re not good enough. Don’t underestimate your knowledge.

How was your first faculty meeting?

Great. The Department here is very collegial and matter-of-fact; so we got stuff discussed and decided.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I LOVE reading, and I play roller derby with the DC Rollergirls!


Calceolaria corymbosa




Centris on Calceolaria ascendens




Chalepogenus on Calceolaria dentata




Collecting Calceolaria in Chile




Calceolaria corymbosa close to Laguna del Maule, Chile




Reproductive tests in the greenhouse

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