Kathryn Stoner grew up on a ranch in Wyoming and is thrilled to now be closer to home. She started work shortly before the fall semester at Colorado State University in the Warner College of Natural Resources. Stoner, who was most recently at New Mexico State University, was named the new head of the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. She takes over for Professor Ken Wilson, who is retiring from the position, which he has held for more than 10 years.
“I’m excited to be surrounded by such a great group of faculty,” said Stoner, when asked what she is most looking forward to in her new role at CSU. “They’re all really good at what they do. That will be stimulating for me, to collaborate with them on research and to help them in any way I can.”
John Hayes, dean of the Warner College, said that Stoner’s work as a research scientist, faculty member and administrator will be invaluable in her new role.
“We have experienced significant growth in the last few years and Kathryn will play a key role in positioning the department to meet challenges and opportunities in the years to come,” he said. “We’re also particularly excited that she has significant experience working with under-represented groups and we look forward to her helping the college move toward its goals of diversifying our student body and addressing the needs of underserved communities.”
Research focus on bats and primates
Stoner was trained as a tropical ecologist. Her research is focused on mammals, including bats and primates, though she has also worked with large cats and rodents. Many of her projects lean towards developing a better understanding of the animal and its environment, with the goal of promoting species and habitat conservation.
Her first research project — while pursuing a doctorate in Systematics and Ecology at the University of Kansas — found her examining intestinal parasites of howler monkeys in the rainforest of Costa Rica, comparing groups in a protected area with primates in a disturbed fragmented habitat. Her research was one of the first to document the negative effects of forest fragmentation on this species.
An avid outdoorswoman, she said that she has always loved animals.
“In the tropics, my first love was primates but my second love was bats.” While working as a field station director for the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica, Stoner met with students during the day and found that the only time she had to do research was at night. “Bats in Costa Rica are way cool,” said Stoner. “There are more than 100 species, and since they’re nocturnal, there’s so much we don’t know about them.”
Her experience working in Latin America for 20 years and with Hispanic-serving universities impressed the interview committee.
“Professor Stoner has focused her academic work on diversity initiatives and facilitating the training of underrepresented groups, during which she has developed deep connections in Latin America,” said George Wittemyer, associate professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. “In addition to decades of experience working in the broader field of wildlife management and conservation, she brings a wealth of experience in department level management and interaction with upper administration.”
Larissa Bailey, also an associate professor in the department, said everyone is extremely excited about Professor Stoner joining CSU.
“She is familiar with and dedicated to the land-grant mission and proud to be a first-generation college student,” said Bailey. “These characteristics should allow her to easily engage with our students, partners and alumni.”
Stoner said that she plans to help address the challenge of increasing diversity among students at CSU and hopes to create more internship opportunities for undergraduates in the department.
“It’s very important to have internships to provide students with hands-on experience that ultimately helps them get jobs when they graduate,” she said. Stoner hopes to partner with the large number of wildlife agencies in town to accomplish this goal.
On a personal note, Stoner said that she’s looking forward to fishing in Colorado, something she hasn’t done for years. She also enjoys biking, hiking, swimming and gardening. Her two daughters — one a senior in high school and the other, an 8th grader — join her here in Fort Collins.