Isabelle Lopez '23

Learning How to Protect Our Natural Resources
UNH student Isabelle Lopez

Isabelle Lopez is a wildlife and conservation biology major with a geospatial analysis minor from Agoura Hills, Calif. In 2022, Isabelle received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to study the use of drones to monitor and protect natural resources. Her research topic is “Evaluating the Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems to Detect and Monitor Beech Bark Disease in New England Forests,” and her faculty mentor is Russ Congalton, professor of remote sensing and GIS. Her work is also supported in part by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station through joint funding from the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the State of New Hampshire.

Along with her academic pursuits, Isabelle has been a member of UNH’s longest-running improv comedy troupe, Improv Anonymous, since she was a sophomore and performs every week during the school year.

COLSA: Why did you choose UNH?

Isabelle Lopez: I chose UNH because of its breadth research opportunities and proximity to so many woodland areas that are available for recreation as well as research. While I wasn't completely sure what I wanted to study when I began my undergraduate career here, I have always loved the outdoors and appreciated that UNH had College Woods right on campus. I also liked that UNH had a wide variety of programs to choose from.

COLSA: What's your major and what makes it so interesting to you?

Isabelle: I am majoring in wildlife and conservation biology with a minor in geospatial analysis. I am passionate about these subjects because with the increasing threats of climate change and continued human disturbances on our natural lands conservation of natural resources is more vital than ever before. I have been able to link my major and minor together to learn and understand how geospatial analysis systems can be used to effectively monitor natural resources.

COLSA: During your time at UNH, what are you most proud of?

Isabelle: Throughout my experience at UNH, I have been most proud of the variety of opportunities and internships that I have been able to participate in. I have gained experiences working with organizations including the U.S. Forest Service, National Parks Service, and Department of the Interior doing native plant restoration and invasive species management.

This past year, I began working in the Basic and Applied Spatial Analysis (BASAL) lab as an undergraduate research assistant. I am currently participating in a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) with the BASAL Lab studying the ability of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to detect and monitor Beech Bark Disease.

COLSA: What are you planning to do after graduation?

Isabelle: After graduation, I am hoping to participate in conservation and restoration work on the West Coast. I also plan to attend graduate school within a couple years studying restoration ecology.

COLSA: How is UNH preparing you to achieve your goals?

Isabelle: I am being prepared to achieve my goals through the guidance I have received at UNH from faculty members, mentors and fellow students. Thanks to my current research fellowship I am learning so much about the world of research and gaining practical experience, which I hope to apply to future projects.

COLSA: What do you love most about UNH?

Isabelle: I love the communities that I have been able to be a part of within UNH. I have been able to find networks of support both academically and personally, which has been critical throughout my undergraduate career.