Tracking animals’ responses to the challenges of nature

Animal biologist Ivy Schoepf wants to see similar research opportunities available to more people.

Anna Schmidt - 23 January 2023

Photo of Ivy Schoepf
Photo by John Ulan

At just 13, Ivy Schoepf chose to apply for science high school. That choice took her from her small hometown in Italy to countries around the world, researching animal biology in Africa, Europe and North America. Now an assistant professor at Augustana Campus, Schoepf studies how animals cope with disease and competition. She’s keen to ensure more students get access to the same experiences that shaped her career.

How do you describe your work in one or two sentences?

Nature constantly presents individual animals with challenges. My research focuses on understanding how individuals cope with the challenges of disease and competition.

What did you want to be when you were in Grade 3?

I wanted to be an archeologist. I grew up watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and it’s still my favourite movie.

When did you know you wanted to be a biologist?

Deep down I have always known I wanted to be a biologist. I loved collecting stickers of animals as a child and reading about all the different species. I made the formal decision to be a biologist at 13, when I had to apply for science high school in Italy. There was no turning back.

What’s one big problem you want to address or goal you want to achieve?

I would like to help make field biology more inclusive. I have been lucky to travel to different parts of the world, meet amazing people and see unique wildlife. I would like to see more people from less affluent backgrounds afforded similar opportunities.

What’s your favourite thing so far about Augustana?

I love how everyone is welcoming and approachable. I have met incredible, supportive people.

How do you see the Augustana community playing a role in your work?

Augustana is unique in that every day I have a chance to rub shoulders with colleagues in other fields of study. It creates an ideal situation for establishing interdisciplinary collaborations. I am looking forward to developing my research to be truly holistic and integrative.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Follow your passion and don’t let anyone tell you cannot do something.

What’s the worst fashion or hair decision you’ve made?

Possibly dying my hair green. As a teenager I was into punk. I loved Green Day and the Sex Pistols.

What’s the last show you binge-watched and loved?

Severance. It’s a new-age psychological thriller. I love watching tv shows and movies that keep you at the edge of your seat. I guess what I like about Severance in particular is that it is very current. It is a critique of modern society’s over-reliance on technology and of modern working conditions.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

I read many great books, so I don’t know if I have one specifically. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is among the best books I have read. It shows the inhumanity of war.

Where did you grow up and what do you love about your hometown?

I grew up in a small Italian town at the foot of the Alps, nestled between lakes and wine country. I love the mountains there and hiking in the forests.

You can invite anyone — alive or dead, real or fictional — to dinner. Who would it be and why?

George Harrison. I would love to hear his stories about his time as a member of the Beatles.

More about Ivy Schoepf

I am an animal biologist with an interdisciplinary, collaborative and highly inclusive research portfolio that spans three continents (Africa, Europe and North America). I started my science career with a BSc in zoology at Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom, followed by an MSc in conservation at University College London and a PhD in natural sciences at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. While I was based in Switzerland, I collected data in Africa, spending up to 10 months at a time in the field over almost 10 years. In 2016, I moved to Canada for my second postdoctoral appointment at Queen’s University, where I started working with birds.