Who are you?
My name is Libby Wilson, and I am a master’s student in the Tobler lab.
Why did you become a scientist?
I’ve always been very curious about the natural world. I grew up really interested in insects, plants, animals, and anything else I could find outside. This curiosity made me fascinated by the diversity of life, so throughout high school and college I liked studying biology because it became increasingly exciting to learn about how complex life is. I also got involved in different research experiences in prairie restoration, developmental physiology, and reptile diversity during my undergraduate years, which really grew my love of field work and analyzing data. Those projects helped me focus my interests, and I realized that I wanted to do more research.
What are you interested in?
I am really interested in the origins of biodiversity and how organisms adapt to their environments. I am investigating how the microbes found throughout the tissues of the fish living in toxic springs, potentially helping them adapt to the extreme environment.
Why is your work exciting?
My work is exciting to me because scientists are rapidly understanding how greatly microbes influence animal health, physiology, behavior, and more. I am enthusiastic to explore this growing field and investigate some of those functions in my fish. Also, my work opens up the possibility of finding a vertebrate-microbe symbiotic relationship, which would be a really exciting discovery for vertebrate research. These animal-microbe relationships that facilitate adaptation to extreme environments have been found in invertebrates that live at sulfidic deep sea vents, but not in vertebrates yet. I am excited to explore this possibility in fish from sulfide streams.
What do you like best about what you do?
I really like how research allows me to explore multiple possibilities to addressing problems, questions, and ideas. If I find a particular research question really compelling, then I can design a way to test that question. Although this open-ended process can be challenging because it can create some uncertainty, it is accompanied by so many options for not only how I design an experiment, but also for what results I might find.
What were your childhood dreams?
As a kid I had dreams of visiting a rainforest, learning a second language, traveling, maybe writing a book, and playing sports. I always loved animals, so I also wanted to be a zookeeper for a while.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
I really like hiking and being outside, playing volleyball, reading, and crafting. One of my favorite things to do is attend different events if I can, so I try to go to workshops, plays, festivals, etc. whenever I find them. It’s nice being part of a university community where various activities are happening around campus.