Nat Geo Explorer shares her journey

When society thinks about science, many people imagine a person in a lab who is wearing a lab coat looking at a microscope while surrounded by many oddly shaped beakers and test tubes. Few people envision the life of Mireya Mayor, director of the Exploration and Science Communications Initiative in FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education.

Mayor spends her time in the field exploring jungles, climbing mountains and working with amazing creatures like monkeys, lemurs and leopards. During an Ocean Life Series talk at the Florida Keys Brewing Company in early March, Mayor walked people through her journey becoming the world-renowned primatologist and wildlife correspondent.

Studying English at the University of Miami, Mayor took a course in anthropology to fulfill a science requirement. It completely changed the course of her life. After learning about endangered primates that had never been photographed, she felt compelled to learn more about these animals. Mayor set out to the jungles of South America to study primates for the first time. As part of her research for her Ph.D. at Stony Brook University, she journeyed to Madagascar to study the effects of forest fragmentation and isolation on two types of lemurs found only in northern Madagascar. While there, she helped discover a rare species of mouse lemur, the world’s smallest primate. This discovery inspired the prime minister of Madagascar to establish a national park to conserve the remaining 10 percent of Madagascar’s jungle and help protect this unique species forever.

Mayor has starred in numerous television shows on networks like NatGeo Wild, The History Channel and The Travel Channel. She is also the author of “Pink Boots and a Machete: My Journey From NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer.”

Today as a National Geographic Explorer, Mayor speaks to audiences across the planet about the importance of wildlife conservation and is an advocate for more women in science. During her recent talk, she stressed that society needs young women to be unwavering in the pursuit of doing important work they are passionate about no matter the challenges and expectations they must overcome.

As for what’s next, Mayor said, “There’s never been a more important time to communicate in simple, entertaining, understandable and believable ways. I plan on bringing in inspirational speakers who are dynamic and engaging, as well as highlighting the cutting-edge research our very own professors and scientists are doing at FIU.”

To learn more about the FIU Ocean Life Series held in the Florida Keys, visit the Institute of Environment’s website.