Lauren Esposito

Lauren Esposito

Lauren Esposito is an evolutionary biologist currently working at the University of California at Berkeley. Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Lauren was a biologist at heart from a young age. Her first grade science fair project was on the Mendelian genetics of pigeon colors. From keeping collections of insects in egg cartons to sorting through shark guts on a family vacation she was always investigating the natural world. When the time came for her to attend college, her major was an obvious choice. Although her initial plan was to become a medical doctor, when she completed her undergraduate education at the University of Texas she decided to pursue a career as a biologist.

Lauren first came to the American Museum of Natural History in 2002 as an undergraduate intern in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates program for a summer research project, where she became hooked on scorpions. After graduating with her B.S. in 2003, as Distinguished Graduate in the Biological Sciences, she was accepted in the Ph.D. program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, City University of New York. In a collaborative doctoral program between CUNY and the AMNH, Lauren returned to the AMNH (2004) to continue research in the Scorpion Systematics Research Lab. Her Ph.D. dissertation is a revision of the systematics of the medically important North American scorpion genus Centruroides, under the supervision of associate curator Lorenzo Prendini. Her multifaceted research involves extensive fieldwork collecting scorpions in the Caribbean, and hundreds of hours spent in the genetics lab, examining the anatomy of scorpions in a microscope, and late nights spent squinting at the computer screen.

During her tenure as a doctoral student, Lauren was supported by a CUNY College NOW fellowship. This is a National Science Foundation funded program (GK-12), which engages graduate students directly with k-12 education by placing them into science classrooms. Lauren has developed several high-school inquiry based courses during her fellowship such as 'iSearch: an introduction to invertebrate biodiversity' and 'Backyard Toxicology', which introduce students to scientific thinking and authentic research. Several of her courses are now being offered to high school students on CUNY campuses across New York City in the CUNY College NOW Program.

Lauren received her PhD from the City University of New York in the Spring of 2011. She received a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship to work at the University of California at Berkeley under the supervision of Rosemary Gillespie. While she will miss New York and the AMNH, she won't miss the cold winters. Lauren will be investigating the biogeography of Caribbean scorpions during her post-doc. The Caribbean Islands have long been recognized for their important role in human history as the gateway to the Americas, yet the rich plant and animal communities of the islands are too often overlooked. Centuries of agriculture and development have resulted in major conservation concerns for much of the region. As a major group of predatory arthropods, scorpions are ideal organisms for understanding Caribbean biogeography (the distribution of biodiversity over space and time). She will examine several independent lineages of scorpions inhabiting the Caribbean, all with varying dispersal abilities, in order to test the role of vicariance (geographic separation) vs. dispersal in the formation of new species in the Caribbean.