Person kneeling in the field

Laura Toro

Research Q & A

What’s your hometown?

I grew up in Medellin, Colombia.

How did you get started/what drew you to your area of study?

Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated by how nature self-regenerates. I wanted to understand how these processes were happening and which strategies plants had to be able to grow after landslides, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions.

Why are you focusing your work in that area?

I’m studying ecological restoration because I want to understand how we can recover degraded areas. I study ecological restoration from the soil-microbe-plant perspective. I’m specifically conducting this project because this area has not been able to self-regenerate even though it was abandoned more than 10 years ago.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a Restoration project I established in Colombia in collaboration with Fundacion Natura, a local non-profit. We planted in 2019 almost 12,000 trees in 42 plots, and they all go seven different fertilizer and watering treatments to test how these two management strategies are impacting tree growth and survival, and what the long-term cost-effectiveness of these strategies is.

Where are you working on research/field work?

I finished my last field season in January 2022. We measured the height, diameter at the base, survival, and resprouting capacity of each tree. Right now, I’m working on the analysis of the data we just collected.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Be passionate about what you do and don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love. Don’t give up if things look hard. Finally, be patient and humble, developing multinational research is not easy, and it requires trust from both sides. Work on building that trust. Also, the fact that you are getting a PhD does not mean that you know everything and that your collaborators are there to please you. Listen to your collaborators needs and particularly value and recognize the work of the people helping you planting and collecting data.


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