Neurobiologist: Dr. Steven Reppert

Neurobiologist: Dr. Steven Reppert

Steven Reppert researches the biological basis for the monarch butterfly’s migration.

Grades

5 - 12+

Subjects

Biology

Steven is a neurobiologist and chair of the neurobiology department at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts.

He is currently researching the biological basis for the monarch butterfly’s migration.

EARLY WORK

Steven says he has always had a “lifelong interest and curiosity about how things work in the world, particularly moths and butterflies and how their biology is affected by the environment.”

A formative experience occurred when Steven was nine years old. He placed several female silk moths inside his screen porch one summer evening, knowing that the insects emit pheromones to attract males as the sun rises in the morning. Steven woke early to witness the sky filled with moths outside his screened porch.

“That was an impression that said, ‘wow, the environment and time of day really have a pretty important influence on the biology of these animals,’” he says.

Steven’s father was a veterinarian, while his brother is currently a physician in Colorado. Steven worked at Massachusetts General Hospital for 25 years before switching careers and taking over the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s neurobiology department seven years ago.

MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK

“There’s nothing cooler than discovering something no one has ever discovered before.”

MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK

“Science can be very tedious. It can be a lot of work. It can consume your thoughts to the point that when I’m driving to work I can drive past the exit on the highway that gets me to where the research building is where my laboratory is housed.”

HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?

Steven says that geography used to be boundaries, but now that concept is changing due to technology. “Geography from the vantage point of scientific discourse, scientific discovery, has become very blurred, because information transfer and the way that people access information is almost immediate now from just about any corner of the world.”

GEO-CONNECTION

Steven says that geography is very important while researching the migration of monarch butterflies. “Obviously, when you are studying an animal that migrates, you have to think about the geographical barriers that are going to be there such as bodies of water, mountain ranges, and other sorts of things,” he says.

While studying the monarch butterfly’s migration, Steven says that he and other scientists are trying to determine “what is geographically unique” about the insects’ overwintering sites.

SO, YOU WANT TO BE A . . . RESEARCH SCIENTIST

“I think the best way to learn about nature is to be outside experiencing it, seeing what birds are around and looking at the local habitat. What plants are there? What flowers are in blossom at that particular time of year in that particular area?”

GET INVOLVED

Steven suggests that students or families interested in learning more about the migrations of the monarch butterfly should check out Monarch Watch and Journey North.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Writer
Stuart Thornton
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Producer
National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact ngimagecollection@natgeo.com for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources