Isabel Rojas-Ferrer is featured in our Women in STEAM deck.
Isabel started her career as an animal behaviorist at the University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez, trying to understand if Venezuelan troupials have a rhythmic meter.
“Rhythmic meter refers to a pattern of stressed syllables, and in music theory, different patterns refer to different time signatures like 3/4 (waltz) 4/4 (common in western music), 5/4 (seen in jazz music like ‘Take 5’ by Dave Brubeck).” – Isabel Rojas-Ferrer
Isabel then went to study for a masters in behavior and evolution at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, where she used known decision algorithms (i.e., learning rules) to understand how current information and past information interact in order for bumblebees to make decisions. She found that bumblebees seemed to be using a consolidation of all their memories; they give equal weight or importance to current and past information. Bumblebees use a lot of information to make ‘simple’ decisions. So amazing!
Isabel is currently working on two projects using zebra finches. The first project looks at how information gathering through development affects learning ability and animal personality later in life. The second project using a game-theoretical model to understand why some animals look for food and others follow (i.e., Producer-Scrounger model).
Isabel has also written an article for the Journal of Animal Ecology on how diversity affects imposter syndrome and has participated in the Soapbox science in Ottawa to promote science communication, diversity, and women in STEAM (She calls herself a STEMinist). She has also participated in a roundtable discussion about the past and future work of women in the scientific community in Canada with the Canadian Minister of Science, the honorable Kirsty Duncan.
She has also participated in competitive archery for many years and has a german shepherd that she takes everywhere. She is a born and raised Boricua and a proud recipient of the Charles H. Turner award from the Animal Behavior Society.