Women in Science: Rima Lucardi

The Women in Science series features women scientists from across the Southern Research Station (SRS)–their education, career paths, challenges, achievements, and inspirations.

Lucardi in the lab doing what she enjoys, extracting DNA from plants and insects. Photo by USFS.

Meet SRS scientist Rima Lucardi, a research ecologist with the Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants unit in Athens, Georgia. Her research program studies non-native plant species invasions and their associated impacts on the ecosystems of the southern United States.

Lucardi uses a variety of approaches to explain the phenomena of biological invasions, identify and mitigate threats to forest health, and develop strategies to prevent ongoing and future plant invasions.

She began her career with the Forest Service after she was offered an internship during the last year of her doctoral program at Mississippi State University.

“Becoming a research ecologist has offered professional development opportunities and exposure I would not have otherwise received,” says Lucardi. “I have also been provided the freedom to develop a broad and interdisciplinary research program to explore invasive species dynamics, including invasive plants, insects, and forest pathogens.”

Lucardi collecting seeds that hitch rides on shipping containers. The backpack vacuums worn by seed-collectors earned them the nickname “Ghostbusters.” Photo by CE Cunard, Arkansas State University.

There were several factors that led to Lucardi’s interest in ecology and the great outdoors. Growing up, family vacations included excursions to visit as many forests, parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges time and money would allow.

As a Girl Scout, her troop conducted service activities along riparian areas such as litter pick-up, wildflower seeding, and wilderness-ethic development — along with hiking, camping, and fossil-hunting.

“As the child of immigrant parents, I was lucky to experience the many wonders and intrinsic values of the National Park and National Forest Systems,” said Lucardi. “In college, my initial declaration was pre-med and biomed engineering, but I began working as an undergraduate research assistant in a plant ecology lab studying plant invasions in North Texas prairies. After spending my post-bachelor years as a professional in microbiology, tissue culture, medical, and animal research, I was sure that I wanted to be the one asking the questions and designing studies, not just executing the experiments, and I wanted to ask these scientific questions of invasive plants, particularly grasses.”

What is a typical work day like for Lucardi? How did she shake off her fear of snakes? Visit Women in Science to learn more about Lucardi — including her recent adventures at the Port of Savannah — and other SRS scientists.

For more information, email Teresa Jackson at teresajackson@fs.fed.us.

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