She has been successful in combining her passions for scientific research and scholarly activism, by contributing to ways to promote women and other historically underrepresented groups in science in grass-roots efforts and by working with university and scientific society leaders to create institutional and policy changes. Marín-Spiotta is a recipient of a CAREER award, which supports strong research and teaching, from the National Science Foundation, the Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring from the American Geophysical Union, for her contributions as a mentor and role model for the next generation of biogeoscientists, and the President’s Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists for her collaborative work on reducing sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in the sciences. On the side, she teaches Cuban dance and has been known to stay out on the dance floor later than many of her students.
Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta is an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her background is quite interdisciplinary. She studied Biology and Political Science in college, while taking literature and foreign language classes. In graduate school, she applied methods and theory from soil science, ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry. The latter is the study of the flow of biologically-important chemical elements, such as plant nutrients and carbon through the earth system- that is looking at interactions among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere. Geography and earth system science is an ideal fit for someone who could never quite settle on studying just one topic. Now she gets to draw from all her interests by doing research on how historical changes in human use of the land and pre-historical changes in climate affect biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles. She doesn't have to pick one time scale, either, as she can work on interpreting the past, to understand the present and predict future changes. Much of her work takes place on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, where one project is focused on understanding how whether a landscape was once used as a pasture or a cropland affects the type of forests that can grow back and its interaction with our climate through the carbon cycle. As a scientist, she can enact her teenage dreams of being a novelist by writing about her research and writing grant proposals to fund future work and support her students. As a college professor, she gets to enjoy the very social nature of teaching, interacting with students from the introductory undergraduate level to the PhD. In addition to her research and teaching, Marín-Spiotta is on the leadership board of the Earth Science Women’s Network, a non-profit dedicated to building community and building careers with more than 3000 members in 60 countries.