Ryan Pate is a research assistant for the Iowa State University monarch butterfly research team. She also works with the ISU Insect Zoo to provide educational outreach for schools and community groups. She is a senior in animal ecology and she has worked with the ISU monarch team in the lab since 2019.
What did you enjoy the most about growing up in (Iowa)? I loved the countryside I grew up in. Around my house there were woods, cornfields, creeks, and prairies to explore and to learn about the outdoors firsthand. I had the opportunity to see all kinds of animals and plants right outside my back door.
Why did you choose Iowa State for college? I had wanted to go to Iowa State since I was a little kid. I'm from Southeast Iowa, and growing up I wanted to become a veterinarian. So Iowa State seemed like an obvious choice. I also like being fairly near home but far enough to experience new things and be independent.
What's the most useful thing you've learned as a student? Balance! Of course don't procrastinate too much, but also it's not always helpful to spend every second of your days studying and stressing over schoolwork. Find a good mix of hard work and self care that works for you. Also, the same things don't always work for everyone! Experiment to find what kind of studying works best for you.
Why did you choose animal ecology for your major? I've always loved animals and nature, especially learning more in depth about different ecological functions. I originally came into freshman year as a biology major, but I realized I wanted something more specific to my career interests. I am more interested in ecological sciences, such as relating to natural resources and wildlife. I'd never heard of the animal ecology major, and when I discovered it, it seemed perfect for me.
Why are you interested in the monarch butterfly and native plants? I am really interested in becoming more familiar with native flora and fauna, because I am used to learning about nonnatives and more exotic invertebrates. I believe it's extremely important for residents to understand more about their local ecosystems. Concerns are also rising related to climate change and habitat loss, and I am honored to be given the opportunity to help better understand the impact on pollinators and native plants.
Describe your internship experience with the monarch team: I have greatly enjoyed my experience so far with the monarch team. I am a new addition so I have fairly limited experience so far; I am still learning and I love everything the internship entails. I am incredibly excited to continue learning and understanding more about the monarchs and their native habitat.
What is a skill you hope to refine during your internship? I would like to become better at team collaboration and communication. The ability to efficiently work in teams is crucial when it comes to lab and field work. I would not say it's a weakness that I have, but I am seeking opportunities to become better.
How do you hope to apply what you have learned in the future? I hope to work better in teams, and also be able to apply the knowledge I acquire with the monarch team to other opportunities. I believe I will gain and build a lot of skills with this internship that I will be able to apply later in my career.
How can Iowa citizens help the monarch butterfly? Stay aware of current events involving monarchs, as well as creating and protecting native habitat for them, especially planting native milkweed!