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UW’s Shoemaker Named ESA Early Career Fellow

March 25, 2021
woman standing outside in desert area
Lauren Shoemaker, a UW assistant professor in the Department of Botany, has been selected as a 2021-25 Early Career Fellow of the Ecological Society of America. Here, she poses in the NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia, where she was studying the formation of fairy circles. (Nichole Barger Photo)

Lauren Shoemaker, a University of Wyoming assistant professor in the Department of Botany, has been selected as a 2021-25 Early Career Fellow of the Ecological Society of America (ESA).

The ESA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of professional ecologists, and this special recognition is awarded to ESA members who have made outstanding contributions to advancing or applying ecological knowledge in academics, government, nonprofit organizations and the private sector.

Early Career Fellows are members who are within eight years of having completed their doctoral training (or other terminal degree) who have advanced ecological knowledge and applications, and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA. They are elected for five years. ESA established its fellows program in 2012.

“This award is an incredible honor,” Shoemaker says. “The Ecological Society of America is the largest professional society in my discipline, and I feel really fortunate to have wonderful colleagues, mentors, collaborators and a lab that have helped me achieve this recognition.”

Shoemaker and the other nine Early Career Fellows will be formally recognized for this designation during an awards ceremony at ESA’s virtual annual meeting Aug. 2-6. She was nominated for this award by a group of collaborators and colleagues from across the United States and internationally.

Her research at UW combines mathematics, ecological experiments and complex systems science with the aim of understanding patterns of biodiversity.

“My research at UW currently focuses on understanding patterns of biodiversity and the mechanisms that maintain species′ richness,” Shoemaker explains. “In particular, my research focuses on understanding the relative importance of competition between species for limited resources, such as water and nutrients, versus the role of environmental variability in structuring ecosystems.

“I study how the relative importance of these different factors contribute to the species’ richness that we observe; the ways in which species' abundances fluctuate through time; and the stability of ecosystems,” she continues. “In my lab, we test the importance of these processes, using laboratory experiments with protists (microscopic and unicellular organisms) and in rangeland ecosystems. This next summer, we are expanding and will be starting to work in the alpine as well.”

Shoemaker adds that she is passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) outreach and exposing students to research, and combining math and biology. For many years, she has served as a pen pal to K-12 students through the national “Letters to a Pre-Scientist” program. At UW, she currently teaches an undergraduate course that combines biology, programming and mathematics, where students follow the scientific process from data collection to visualization and analysis.

Additionally, she teaches a graduate course focused on data science. These experiences tie to her own research passion of working across disciplinary boundaries and combining modeling with tests of ecological theory. 

“This award highlights, to me, the importance of working across disciplinary boundaries, and in combining mathematics and modeling with data collection and analysis for progressing our understanding of the mechanisms that structure ecosystems and biological diversity,” she says.

For more information about Shoemaker’s research and her lab, go to

The ESA, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000- member society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin, and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach and education initiatives. The ESA’s annual meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science.

For more information, go to

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