LSU doctoral student and native Brazilian Glaucia Del-Rio is the first in the College of Science to receive the American Association of University Women, or AAUW, doctoral fellowship. The AAUW has been awarding the fellowship since 1888 making it the oldest non-institutional source of graduate funding for women in the United States.
The fellowship opens a new set of possibilities for Del-Rio’s research and fieldwork. Currently, she is conducting research with Robb Brumfield, LSU Roy Paul Daniels Professor in Biological Sciences and director of the LSU Museum of Natural Science. She intends to use the fellowship to support her work in the Brazilian Amazon Forest performing fieldwork, collecting data on bird communities and investigating the general evolutionary and ecological processes shaping and maintaining the forest’s avian diversity.
“Because of accessibility issues, Amazon Forest avifauna is still poorly studied, but with LSU and AAUW support, I will be able to travel to places never sampled before,” said Del-Rio, adding that answering questions about bird diversity is not an easy or inexpensive task.
“We have to use innovative molecular techniques and travel to very isolated places. So, I was very happy when I received the news about the fellowship. I am glad that AAUW trusted me and I hope to repay society with reliable research and efforts to take this knowledge outside of the academic frontiers.”
Del-Rio received a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a master’s degree in zoology at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was there that she discovered her passion for birds. Early in her academic career, she read A Parrot Without a Name by Don Stap, which chronicles the field expeditions of renowned LSU ornithologists John O’Neill and Ted Parker in the Peruvian rainforest. Since reading the book, Del-Rio has dreamed of studying birds at LSU.
“Today, I have the chance to join these expeditions working beside some of the best professionals in my area,” said Del-Rio. “Here, I can match my interests in fieldwork and molecular biology and try to better understand the incredible bird diversity in my country. Being here is a dream come true.”
Brumfield played a crucial role in helping Del-Rio navigate the AAUW fellowship application process, which consisted of an online application, where she had to write several narratives about her personal history, research interests, involvement with Brazilian communities and professional goals. “I had the help of two professors in Brazil and my supervisor, Dr. Brumfield, which provided letters recommending my application,” said Del-Rio.
Del-Rio’s drive to study biodiversity is personal rooted in her experiences growing up in Brazil.
“The forests in my country are incredibly threatened by the advances of destructive economic activities before we have the chance to know our diversity. This fellowship will help not only to improve my dissertation, but also to provide more data for ornithologists, evolutionary biologists and decision makers interested in the Amazon rainforest.”
Del-Rio also reflected on how important it is to be a woman in STEM. She believes that the one way for women in STEM to continue to receive recognition for their work is for them to apply for more opportunities such as the AAUW fellowship. “ I encourage other LSU women to apply for this fellowship. I am happy that institutions such as AAUW help women go further and be whatever they want to be, whether it’s here, or in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.”