Mariana obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology at the Universidad de Los Andes in Venezuela. During her undergraduate studies, she was particularly fascinated by bats and decided to conduct research on this group of animals. For her bachelor thesis, Mariana studied the assimilation of nutrients (glucose and proteins) in a frugivorous bat. After completing her degree, she became a member of the Animal Ecology Laboratory at the Universidad de Los Andes, where she continued research on bats and served as an Evolutionary Biology instructor. Currently, Mariana is interested in the study of bat-plant interactions. She is intrigued by how the evolutionary forces have shaped the characteristics of this biological system.
As a Ph.D. student, her research will be focused on the effects and ecological importance of secondary compounds present in fruits of the genus Piper eaten by frugivorous bats of the genus Carollia. One of her biggest goals is to achieve a substantial change in the perception of bats: that is, from animals that are often considered troublesome pests, to biological entities that play a key role in the environment–such as pollination, seed dispersal, and the consumption of insects that severely damage crops of economic importance. Participation in the IGC program would help her to accomplish this goal, broadening her abilities in science communication and maximizing the impact of her research.