Caitlin Looby


Ph.D., Biological Sciences, UCI, 2017 expected
MS, Biotechnology Sciences, Kean University, 2012
BS, Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Connecticut, 2009


Dirt, climate change, & cloud forests


Caitlin Looby is a doctoral candidate in Kathleen Treseder’s lab in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCI. She hikes up and down a mountain in a cloud forest in Costa Rica to see how microbes in dirt will respond to climate change. These microbes are responsible for breaking down plant material, and in doing so, release greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide. To do this, she used a mountain to mimic climate change. Higher elevations are cooler and wetter, but lower elevations are warmer and drier. By moving dirt down the mountain, she time travelled into our future climate. Caitlin is also extremely passionate about science writing. Besides writing for the Loh Down, she also reports for Mongabay, writes freelance articles in magazines, and recently wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times.

Why is science communication important to you personally?

Science communication is fun, and it is a responsibility. For me, writing for broader audiences was like learning a new language. It is a challenge, but it is so fulfilling when you can help someone learn something new or get excited about science. It is also an opportunity to get creative, and bring some personality to science. This is not only a breath of fresh air, but also keeps me inspired about my own work. Also, science is everywhere, and finds its way into every aspect of daily life. It is important that people appreciate why it helps them, know that it is not scary, and understand what they pay for as taxpayers. I am excited to be this connection.

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