Colorado native Elizabeth “Libby” Pansing spent her high school and undergraduate college years on the slopes, competing nationally in slopestyle (jumps and rails), half pipe, and boardercross. Her parents fostered a love of nature that led her to many adventures off the slopes as well: “I spent a considerable amount of time traipsing through the outdoors in the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming,” she said.
In the 2000s, Libby watched as the mountain pine beetle killed countless trees “essentially in my backyard,” as she put it. In its “Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests,” the Colorado State Forest Service estimates that the beetle epidemic killed trees across 3.4 million acres. “I was fascinated by the scale of the disturbance and curious about the consequences of the outbreak for forest health, structure, and composition,” Libby said. Which is why she decided to major in ecology and evolutionary biology. This December, she earns her doctorate from the integrative and systems biology program.
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