Julie Denslow

USDA Forest Service, Institute for Pacific Islands Forestry
Research Ecologist and Team Leader for Invasive Species Unit
(Retired Dec. 31, 2007, Scientist Emerita with USDA FS)
High School Attended
Coral Gables Senior High School, Coral Gables, Florida
College Attended
Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio: A.B.
Graduate Training
University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL: M.S. Biology;
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI: Ph.D. Botany


Job Description:

I lead a team of research scientists working on the impact and control of invasive plants in native forests of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands. We conduct original research on effects of invasive plants on ecosystem processes, on weed risk assessment, on population growth rates, and on management especially biological control. We also provide information to managers and the public on the ecology and control of invasive plants in Pacific forests.

Interest in Field:

I grew up in South Florida where my family enjoyed fishing and hiking. I have always enjoyed the natural world, so making a career out of it seemed an easy decision. I was convinced that I would focus on research in tropical biology, however, after taking a 2 month field course in Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies. It was an intensive 24-7 kind of course that sealed it for me because I was able to work with such dedicated faculty and students in spectacular ecosystems on amazing plants and animals.

How did you get there?

I took advantage of the opportunities available in graduate school and through OTS to gain deep experience in the field in Central and South America. I was fortunate to have wonderful mentors who opened opportunities for me, but I also expanded those opportunities by working with professional organizations (OTS, the Association for Tropical Biology, the Ecological Society of America) and by working with graduate students who expanded my interests and skills. Success in research and academic careers is based largely on productivity which means timely publication of research results, frequent publication of articles of interest to other researchers, and participation in an international dialog on important issues. Fortunately I enjoyed this process.

Necessary Qualifications:

A deep and abiding interest in your field so that you naturally stay abreast of new developments. An ability to communicate well orally and in writing. An ability to synthesize information and recognize flaws, pukas and underlying questions. The interest probably came naturally, but skills in writing and analysis can be learned.

Rewards of Work:

The satisfaction of creating lasting information on the natural world and of contributing to the ideas that influence other researchers, managers, and policy makers.

Relevant Work Experience:

Associate professor of biology at Tulane University and Louisiana State University.

Typical Day:

Most days recently are spent analyzing data and writing manuscripts for publication—office work, but very stimulating. I still spend occasional days in the field taking information on tree growth or collecting soil samples. Earlier in my career I spent more time in the field in Costa Rica, Panama, or Louisiana working with technicians to collect data on forest structure, composition and dynamics.

Words of Wisdom :

You wish you knew...:

There are many opportunities for careers in environmental sciences. When I started the only one I considered was as a university professor. It would have been a good idea to understand the variety of opportunities in the field. You wish you were told...:

You probably limit your own opportunities more that others limit them for you. Look at where you want to go and believe that you can get there. Limiting yourself by not being willing to travel or move can greatly restrict your opportunities to learn, to make good contacts, and to grow in you career.

Final Comments / Advice:

It is critical that you communicate...write and speak...well. This is how others will form their impressions of you and of the professionalism you bring to any position or project. It’s worth the effort to learn how to do this well.