Julia Shonfield with a Northern Saw-whet Owl that has just been banded for ornithological research. Photo provided by Julia Shonfield.

Dr. Julia Shonfield (@JuliaShonfield) is an ecologist working for LGL Ltd. Julia completed her PhD at the University of Alberta on the effects of industrial development on owls and their prey in northern Alberta.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?


4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Many items with owls from my PhD, a few remaining squirrel items from my MSc.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?


8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Be a writer, possibly a journalist or novelist, and also a professional photographer

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

It’s not really a separate science field, since I’d still want to study ecology, but if I could study any taxa it would be bats!

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Easter Island

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Excellent night vision

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

The way of shadows by Brent Week, 1st book in the Night Angel trilogy. It’s a fantasy book that’s dark, gritty and violent, but it’s the only book I’ve read where the ending throws you for such a loop that you immediately want to re-read the entire book because the ending changes how you see all the events leading up to it. The other two books in the trilogy are good too.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Go canoeing and then a dip in a lake

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Love, tea and chocolate

15 What beverage gives you life?

Tea (all types, black, green, bubble tea etc.)

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Lord of the Rings (which is still my absolute favourite book) made me realize the power of a writing style that can completely immerse you in a totally different world. It doesn’t have to be a fantasy world either, Gone with the Wind had the same effect. I suppose I should mention that wasn’t a required book for school, I just did a lot of reading in my spare time throughout all my years in school.

17 What did you want to be be when you grew up?

A writer

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

I love being able to share what I discover through science to the rest of the world: publications, presentations, and other scientific communication methods.

19 What got you excited in science?

A love of the outdoors

20 What excites you about science now?

Applying my science skills to new taxa, I’ve lately started working on projects on reptiles and also bats!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

RuPaul’s drag race

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

A dogged determination to finish any book I start reading (sometimes I regret this, but even if it’s a bad book, I always figure I should get to the end just to see if it gets better).

23 What is your favorite game?


24 What is the last book you read?

I just re-read the Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks in anticipation of reading the 5th book that was recently released.

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

My high school history teacher told our class that if we’re having trouble finishing a sentence to end it with “…in accordance with prophecy.” Ok, ok, so obviously not the best advice I’ve received, but I still find it amusing and it’s oddly memorable.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?


27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Do not go to your 8:30am first year calculus class hungover (I feel I should preface this with the fact that I went to university in Montreal, where the drinking age is 18).

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

A glass of wine on a patio with a view

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Jeopardy from 1985 (did you know it’s on Netflix now?)

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Probably a squirrel tail. When I worked in the Yukon on red squirrels for my MSc we’d often find squirrel tails on our study sites (if a predator gets a squirrel, the only thing remaining is usually the tail), and all of us that worked on the project had a habit of picking them up and keeping them. Not for any scientific reason, mind you.

31 What is your favorite animal?

There are multiple for sure, but some of my favourites are the lynx, great gray owl, pika and jumping mice.

32 What is your favorite book?

Lord of the Rings

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Maybe not exactly a comfort food, but I love various edible berries in the boreal forest and my absolute favourite is the cloudberry. I made cloudberry jam recently and it is divine!

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Solstice (preferably in the Yukon or some equally northern latitude)

35 What is your favorite plant?

Sundews (they are just the coolest plants found in bogs)

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Red squirrels prey on baby snowshoe hares.

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Labrador tea

39 What is your favorite sound?

Any species of owl calling

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

My ability to roll my eyes without even realizing it (joking, haha! but it does seem to be something I’m good at).

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Current favourite is ‘pingüinos’, penguins in Spanish

42 What is your proudest moment?

Successfully defending my PhD

43 What kind of tree would you be?

White pine

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Close proximity to family and the fresh produce

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I’ve trained in multiple martial arts.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Frances Stewart (@StewartResearch)