Roaming researcher

Michelle Lute

Michelle Lute, Ph.D.

Class of 2005
National Carnivore Conservation Manager
Project Coyote

Michelle Lute is a conservation scientist and advocate with more than a decade’s experience in biodiversity conservation on public and private lands around the globe. Her professional life is dedicated to promoting human-wildlife coexistence through effective public engagement, equitable participatory processes, and evidence-based decision-making.

In the last decade, Michelle Lute ’05, Ph.D., has traveled extensively: following monkeys around the rainforest, trapping hyenas on the African savanna, tracking jaguars in Brazil, and conducting interviews on the mountains of Madagascar.

Michelle studies environmental conservation and global change. Her career strategy — going from one interesting project to the next, trying to maximize her impact — has allowed her to work on a diversity of projects. She now works as a national carnivore conservation manager with Project Coyote.

“Valpo’s environmental science program was critical in preparing me for this line of work,” Michelle says. “Having taken courses ranging from biology and chemistry to geography and history, I learned to work on interdisciplinary projects and in teams with a plethora of diverse folks. This experience set me up for success no matter which direction I ended up taking.”

Through her research, Michelle seeks to understand how people interact with the rest of the natural world. She studies negative interactions, such as human-wildlife conflict, as well as positive behaviors such as stewardship. This work has earned her an M.S. in biology from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in conservation ethics from Michigan State University.

Michelle decided early in her graduate career that she would balance research with teaching, developing her pedagogical skills to prepare for a career in academia. In addition to conducting research and teaching in the classroom, she has led several study abroad programs to Madagascar and Brazil, guiding younger students to explore the ways that culture and environment interact.

Michelle credits Associate Professor of Biology Laurie Eberhardt and Professor of Geography Ron Janke as her mentors and academic role models.

“Both of these professors are dedicated and enthusiastic educators,” she says. “To this day, they set the standard for the teacher I want to be, and I have no doubt they will continue to inspire me throughout my career.”