Ecologist Earns Award to Support Scientific Exploration

Paulina González-Gómez earned the Award in Field Biology by the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
Paulina González-Gómez earned the Award in Field Biology by the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation

When Paulina González-Gómez was caught admiring baby birds chirping outside her classroom window, her third-grade teacher cautioned she wouldn’t make a living watching birds. Undeterred, she is now forging a career studying how changes in the environment influence the behavior, physiological traits and life cycles of birds.

González-Gómez, a lecturer for the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, is among this year’s recipients of the Award in Field Biology from the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation, which recognizes and supports scientists in their field-based research. She will receive $100,000 in unrestricted funds.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “It’s so heartwarming to get recognition from your colleagues and mentors. As a woman in science, and as a minority, it hasn’t been an easy path. But I just love what I do.”

The Chilean native earned her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the Universidad de Chile and arrived at UC Davis as a postdoctoral researcher in 2010. González-Gómez said she plans to use some of the funds to help foster more collaborations related to her research, including one of her current projects that involves studying the role of gene expression patterns and hormones on how hummingbirds prepare for migration.

She’s also studying how particular cognitive abilities in hummingbirds compare with other birds and bees. González-Gómez has also conducted experiments on how animals integrate behaviors, body functions and molecular traits to adapt to diverse environments.

“The more you study birds, the more questions you get,” she said. “It is a never-ending story. Even more at these times of unprecedented environmental change, we don’t know if and how birds will cope.”

She is also a lecturer for the UC Davis Writing Program, which helps undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines gain necessary scientific writing skills.

Media Resources

Primary Category