A Conversation with Mary Ann Ottinger

What is your job, what do you work on, and what is your involvement with GoMAMN?

I am currently an Emeritus Professor at the University of Houston and also a Research Professor. Previously, I was at the University of Maryland, where I am also an Emeritus Professor. My involvement with GoMAMN is as an endocrinologist and ecotoxicologist, primarily focused on environmental endocrine disruptors and health metrics that can be used in the field to assess individual and consequently wild bird population sustainability. More recently I am excited to be working on developing a mentoring program with our GoMAMN Community of Practice.

Are there any particular areas you are seeking collaboration or willing to collaborate with others?

Birds have been the focus of my research, including precocial, ground dwelling birds and altricial birds emphasizing the impacts of environmental chemicals and other stressors on health and lifetime productivity. More recently, as part of an international team, we’ve been investigating the rapid loss of Old-World vulture populations. Beyond lifetime health and productivity, I’ve been bringing in the aspect of One Health and the applicability of this framework in conservation and possibly restoration projects involving birds.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a zoologist and have been fortunate to work with colleagues across a range of topics, including ecotoxicology and endocrine disruptors, behavioral neuroendocrinology, health and field birds, comparative biology of aging, and conservation. I really enjoy and value my collaborators and former students as we delve into research and management challenges facing wildlife and particularly birds. I am most fortunate to have national and international collaborators and really appreciate these amazing researchers.

Besides a coordinated and integrated monitoring program, what do you see as another essential need for advancing avian conservation in the Gulf of Mexico?

Facilitating the success of our community in surmounting the challenges facing wildlife and in particular birds. This will require cooperation, collaboration, mentoring, and most importantly effective communication.

What is your desired vision for GoMAMN and the Gulf of Mexico avian monitoring Community of Practice in 10 years?

A coordinated community that has well organized communication and response pathways, facilitating research, restoration and management capabilities and projects.

Where is your favorite outdoor place on the Gulf Coast?

There are so many places! I really enjoy visiting Corpus Christi and coastal regions on the coast, including Galveston.

If you could befriend/meet 3 famous people (living or dead), who would they be?

I limited my response to people I have not met:

  • Ruth Bader-Ginsberg – iconic leader and visionary
  • Tom Hanks – amazing career
  • Isaac Asimov- creative science fiction

Any other little-known facts that you’d like to tell us?

I am first generation Hungarian, born in the U.S. and acutely aware of the challenges facing Americans and the importance of education and informed and thoughtful decision making in all aspects of our life.

What is one thing you know for sure?

We accomplish great progress together!