Michelle LaRue
Former Research Fellow, PGC
Email: larue010@umn.edu
Phone: 612-625-6609

What I Did at the PGC

I am interested in using GIS and remote sensing as tools to answer broad spatial and conservation ecology questions. My master's thesis focused on large mammal habitat selection and movement, particularly the phenomenon of potential recolonization of cougars (Puma concolor) in the Midwest. I have now moved my focus to the Antarctic, where high-resolution satellite imagery can be used to study marine mammal and bird populations, and how changes in sea ice may affect populations. I am currently using remote sensing to research population status and abundance of emperor penguins and Weddell seals.

As a research fellow at PGC, my responsibilities range widely from analyzing remotely-sensed imagery, to supporting logistics, operations, and planners, to mentoring students, and collaborating with Antarctic researchers worldwide. I am also PGC's team lead in the field, so I am responsible for planning, organizing, and conducting field work in the Dry Valleys every year.


  • PhD, Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, May 2014
  • MS, Zoology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 2007
    Thesis title: Predicting potential habitat and dispersal corridors for cougars in midwestern North America
  • BS, Ecology, Minnesota State University Mankato, 2005

Personal Info / Hobbies

I live on the St. Croix River with my husband, Chris, and two golden retrievers, Hank and Townes. We enjoy fishing, gardening, hiking, biking, and paddling together (even the dogs). I absolutely love photography, and the travel opportunities that my line of work allows me to do.

I strongly feel that knowledge and critical thinking are crucial to understanding the world around us, and I am a proponent of practicing what we preach. So, I enjoy volunteering at elementary schools to teach kids about Antarctica and our environment. Seeing the excitement on their faces is an incredibly rewarding experience! I also do my best to grow my own vegetables in the summer, eat locally-grown foods, carpool to work, and bike or walk everywhere I can.

Selected Publications

  • LaRue, M.A., H.J. Lynch, P. Lyver, K. Barton, D.G. Ainley, A.M. Pollard, G. Ballard. A method to estimate Adélie penguin populations using remotely-sensed imagery. In review at Polar Biology.
  • Stapleton, S., M.A. LaRue, N. Lecomte, S. Atkinson, D. Garshelis, C. Porter, T.Atwood. Polar bears from space: Assessing satellite imagery as a tool to monitor Ursus maritimus. In review at Global Change Biology.
  • LaRue, M.A., D.G. Ainley, M. Swanson, P.O.B. Lyver, K.T. Dugger, G. Ballard, and K. Barton. 2013. Climate change winners: receding ice fields allow colony expansion and altered metapopulation dynamics among Adélie penguins in the southern Ross Sea. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60568. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060568
  • LaRue, M.A., C.K. Nielsen, M. Dowling, K. Miller, B. Wilson, H. Shaw, and C. Anderson. 2012. Cougars are recolonizing the Midwest: analysis of cougar confirmations during 1990-2008. Journal of Wildlife Management 76:1364-1369.
  • Fretwell, P.T., M.A. LaRue, P.J. Morin, G. Kooyman, B. Wienecke, N. Ratcliffe, A. Fox, C. Porter, A. Fleming, P. Trathan. 2012. The first global, synoptic survey or a species from space: emperor penguins. PLoS ONE 7(4):e33751. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033751.
  • LaRue, M.A., J.J. Rotella, D.B. Siniff, R.A. Garrott, G.E. Stauffer, C.C. Porter, D. Ainley, and P.J. Morin. 2011. Satellite imagery can be used to detect variation in abundance of Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in Erebus Bay, Antarctica. Polar Biology 34:1727-1737.
  • Henaux, V., L.A. Powell, K.A. Hobson, C.K. Nielsen, and M.A. LaRue. 2011. Tracking large carnivore dispersal using isotopic clues in claws: an application to cougars across the Great Plains. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2:489-499.
  • LaRue, M.A. and C.K. Nielsen. 2011. Modelling potential habitat for cougars in midwestern North America. Ecological Modelling 222:897-900.
  • LaRue, M.A., and C.K. Nielsen. 2008. Modelling potential dispersal corridors for cougars in midwestern North American using least-cost path methods. Ecological Modelling 212: 372-381.
  • LaRue, M.A., C.K. Nielsen, and M.D. Grund. 2007. Using distance sampling to estimate densities of deer in south-central Minnesota. The Prairie Naturalist 39:57-68.
  • LaRue, M.A., and C.K. Nielsen. 2006. Using expert-opinion surveys and GIS to model potential cougar habitat in midwestern North America. Endangered Species Update 23:55-61.

Selected Presentations

  • LaRue, M.A. (Guest Lecture) 2013. Wildlife research in Antarctica: an interdisciplinary approach. Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids, MN.
  • LaRue, M.A. (Guest Lecture) 2013. Emperor penguins: the first ever census of a species from space. Cheeseman’s Ecology Safaris, Antarctica In-Depth Cruise.
  • LaRue, M.A. (Invited Speaker) 2012. The Polar Geospatial Center: what it is and how it can help you. Association for Polar Early Career Scientists workshop, Portland, OR.
  • LaRue, M.A., J. Rotella, B. Garrott, J. DeVoe, K. Banner, and D. Siniff. 2012. Using high-resolution satellite imagery to monitor population changes in Weddell seals in Ross Sea, Antarctica. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research International Conference, Portland, OR.
  • LaRue, M.A. (Invited Speaker) 2012. How to count emperor penguins without stepping in it. St. Paul Audubon Society, St. Paul, MN
  • LaRue, M.A. 2012. Monitoring the Ross Sea from space: applications of high-resolution satellite imagery. Ross Sea Workshop, La Jolla, CA.
  • LaRue, M.A. (Keynote Speaker) 2011. Lessons from Antarctica: How satellite imagery is redefining ecological research. Minnesota Phenology Conference, Finland, MN.
  • LaRue, M.A. and P.J. Morin. 2011. The Polar Geospatial Center. Arctic LTER Meeting, Woods Hole, MA.
  • LaRue, M.A., C.K. Nielsen, M. Dowling, B. Wilson, H. Shaw, C. Thompson. 2010. Cougar confirmations in the Midwest: 1990-2008. Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Minneapolis, MN.
  • LaRue, M.A. (Invited Speaker) 2010. Mapping Earth's Newest Continent. Minnesota Geological Society Seminar, Minneapolis, MN.
  • LaRue, M.A., and C.K. Nielsen. 2009. Potential recolonization and population viability of cougars in the Midwest. Ecological Society of America Conference, Albuquerque, NM.
  • LaRue, M.A. (Invited Speaker) 2009. Finding mummified seals and following the South Pole Traverse: a dual role in Antarctica. Association of Women Geologists Luncheon, St. Paul, MN.
  • LaRue, M.A., 2009. (Invited Speaker) Antarctica: A land of no law, no logic, no God, and no maps. University of Minnesota Paleoecology Student Seminar, St. Paul, MN.