Helena Puche


… is an ecologist who earned her Ph.D. in Entomology at the University of Florida, working on the epidemiology of a tomato virus transmitted by thrips, tiny insects that cause devastation in the tomato industry. Using mathematical models, she discovered that thrips hide in the surrounding weeds of tomato fields before they are planted, initiating the attack as soon as the tomatoes start to grow. Also at the University of Florida, she held a post-doc on subterranean termites, where she demonstrated that termites build tunnels in a fractal fashion (she was known then as the fractal lady!). She taught a graduate course about “Impacts of Dispersal on Invasive species and Conservation” at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where her work with students inspired her to pursue another master’s degree through the Advanced Inquiry Program at Miami University. Her mission has been “to actively engage students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers through scientific inquiry, building students’ character, and forming future leaders of the world.” In addition to serving as an instructor for Project Dragonfly, she has instructed web-based and in-person graduate courses at the University of Nebraska, Truman College, DePaul University, and the University of Washington, including courses such as Infectious Diseases, Evolution, Ecology & Climate Change, and Biological Invasions. Several non-biology majors decided to start biology after her classes, because she encourages thinking, asking questions, and gives inspiration to discover new knowledge. Her way of promoting love of nature and wildlife can be found here: https://www.dragonflyworkshops.org/eportfolios/view_shared?external_id=7cPl34s0pZ.