I am quite interested in effective science communication.  Indeed, I think one reason many Americans lack an appreciation of science is because we scientists have no voice.  Instead, we let others (often actors and politicians!) “talk” for us on scientific issues. Nor, have we been historically encouraged to speak to the public about what we do.

Accordingly, I run a “BioBlog,” which is sponsored by the Biology Department at UNM and the Program in Interdisciplinary Biomedical and Biological Science (PiBBs).  Our BioBlog brings together undergraduate and graduate students to develop and hone writing about science and to constructively critique the writing of others. Students write short blogs on a subject of interest or describe personal experiences of research and discovery. The overall aim is to communicate to others in the department, university and general public our passion and excitement about what we do and about science in general, so that we can become better ambassadors of science.  We meet weekly at Fridays; come join us if you are interested!

Samples of blogs I have written:

Prospective Students

I welcome inquiries from prospective graduate students. I generally take 1 or 2 students per year, depending on how many students are finishing and the credentials of the applicants. I confess to a strong preference for Ph.D. students over masters, since it provides more time for development of projects and ideas. What I am looking for in students are bright, creative, and motivated individuals, who share some of my own research interests. But, I don't intend to produce "mini-me's"; students are responsible for coming up with their own ideas for a dissertation, with some help from me. To date, students in my lab have worked on a wide variety of topics including life history studies, phylogeography, climate change research, paleoecology and macroecology.

The lack of diversity in science is everyone’s problem

Why does diversity matter? A practical answer involves numbers: about 50% of the world’s population is female and ~80% is ‘non-white’. Thus, historically, the sciences have excluded an enormous amount of talent. Given the many serious and pressing problems society faces, this is clearly a very bad idea. But, another less obvious answer is that engaging diverse groups improves science. People from different backgrounds with different cognitive abilities bring different experiences, thought processes and approaches to problems. Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that ‘identity diverse’ groups outperform homogeneous groups and even the best ‘individual agents’. Thus, it is clear the culture and the institution of science must change.

For my part, I have long been active in outreach efforts at a variety of levels, from elementary and secondary schools to professional societies. I seek graduate students from a variety of cultures, backgrounds and life experiences, and have mentored many women and students from underrepresented groups. 
I find that active mentoring and the willingness to openly discuss and share challenges I have faced helps maintain an inclusive and diverse environment within my own classes, lab group and research endeavors. As a female Hispanic academic, I have often been the sole representative of my gender and/or culture at symposia, workshops and the like. As an established scientist (and now the leader of several scientific societies), I can and do have a voice. I am actively using it to change the status quo.


BIOL 494: Biogeography

BIOL 419/519: Paleoecology (Ecology of the Past)

BIOL 419/519: Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck

BIOL 511: Macroecology

BIOL 402/502: BioBlog

BIOL 402/502: Paleoecology-Macroecology Lab Group

BIOL 551: Research problems

BIOL 699: Dissertation hours


Mammalian Paleoecology is out now!

"In Mammalian Paleoecology, Felisa Smith broadly considers extinct mammals in an ecological context. Arguing that the past has much to teach us and that mammals, which display an impressive array of diverse life history and ecological characteristics, are the ideal organism through which to view the fossil record, Smith

  • reviews the history, major fossil-hunting figures, and fundamental principles of paleoecology, including stratigraphy, dating, and taphonomy
  • discusses the importance of mammal body size, how to estimate size, and what size and shape reveal about long-dead organisms
  • explains the structure, function, and utility of different types of mammal teeth
  • highlights other important methods and proxies used in modern paleoecology, including stable isotopes, ancient DNA, and paleomidden analyses
  • assesses nontraditional fossils
  • presents readers with several case studies that describe how the fossil record can help inform the scientific discussion on anthropogenic climate change

Mammalian Paleoecology is an approachable overview of how we obtain information from fossils and what this information can tell us about the environments of the distant past. It will profoundly affect the way paleontologists and climatologists view the lives of ancient mammals." —Johns Hopkins University Press


Animal Body Size

Edited by Felisa A. Smith and S. Kathleen Lyons
"Galileo wrote that “nature cannot produce a horse as large as twenty ordinary horses or a giant ten times taller than an ordinary man unless by miracle or by greatly altering the proportions of his limbs and especially of his bones”—a statement that wonderfully captures a long-standing scientific fascination with body size. Why are organisms the size that they are? And what determines their optimum size?
This volume explores animal body size from a macroecological perspective, examining species, populations, and other large groups of animals in order to uncover the patterns and causal mechanisms of body size throughout time and across the globe. The chapters represent diverse scientific perspectives and are divided into two sections. The first includes chapters on insects, snails, birds, bats, and terrestrial mammals and discusses the body size patterns of these various organisms. The second examines some of the factors behind, and consequences of, body size patterns and includes chapters on community assembly, body mass distribution, life history, and the influence of flight on body size." —The University of Chicago Press

Foundations of Macroecology

Edited by Felisa A. Smith, John L. Gittleman, and James H. Brown

"Macroecology is an approach to science that emphasizes the description and explanation of patterns and processes at large spatial and temporal scales. Some scientists liken it to seeing the forest through the trees, giving the proverbial phrase an ecological twist. The term itself was first introduced to the modern literature by James H. Brown and Brian A. Maurer in a 1989 paper, and it is Brown’s classic 1995 study, Macroecology, that is credited with inspiring the broad-scale subfield of ecology. But as with all subfields, many modern-day elements of macroecology are implicit in earlier works dating back decades, even centuries.

Foundations of Macroecology charts the evolutionary trajectory of these concepts—from the species-area relationship and the latitudinal gradient of species richness to the relationship between body size and metabolic rate—through forty-six landmark papers originally published between 1920 and 1998. Divided into two parts—“Macroecology before Macroecology” and “Dimensions of Macroecology”—the collection also takes the long view, with each paper accompanied by an original commentary from a contemporary expert in the field that places it in a broader context and explains its foundational role. Providing a solid, coherent assessment of the history, current state, and potential future of the field, Foundations of Macroecology will be an essential text for students and teachers of ecology alike." —The University of Chicago Press


The following datasets are available for download: