Susan Mopper has been a key faculty member in establishing UL's Biology Department as one of the fastest rising stars in the US.

Where did you grow up and study?

I grew up all over, and I guess I'm still growing up all over. I earned my BS and MS at Florida State, and my PhD in Zoology at Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. My dissertation focused on plant-insect ecology, looking at how low environmental stress and genetics affect piñon pine resistance from attack by insects. After that I was appointed to a post-doctoral position at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

How did you end up UL?

Straight out of my post-doc, I was accepted here. I also had an offer from the University of Maryland, but I liked the Biology Department here, I had a good feeling about it. I felt I could do more research here.

What are you working on currently?

I'm director of the Center for Ecology and Environmental Technology (CEET). I took over there about 2003. CEET looks at a wide variety of issues and organisms: fish, quail & other birds, plants, insects, we're running lots of different experiments. UL has a tremendous research facility there, it's definitely worth a visit.

We have a big project coming up, The Louisiana Native Plant Initiative, to produce native wildflowers & native seeds. The project is funded by the USDA and the Acadiana Resources Conservation Development Council, a non-profit organization that addresses the social, environmental, and economical concerns of South Central Louisiana. So it's a state & federal cooperative effort. The Nature Conservancy is also part of the consortium. It's very important research, because we need to produce native species so we can re-plant and restore them. Most people think of South Louisiana as swamps and bayous, but it was mostly prairie when the Europeans arrived. But that's all gone now. We only have a tiny amount of our native prairie species remaining. So we hope to repopulate the areas where they have become extinct. And we want to seed our roadsides with them.

 I understand that after burn-backs at CEET, rare native species appeared that were not planted by the researchers.

Yeah, that's true. Because so much of south Louisiana was prairie, these are fire-adapted, not wetlands plants.