Sunshine A. Van Bael earned a B.A. with Honors in Biology from the University of Chicago in 1996, and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2003. Her post-doctoral work was at the Smithsonian National Zoo and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. During her time as a researcher, she has traveled widely throughout Central and South America, as well as in Asia and Australia. Currently her research is based in Panama, Costa Rica and along the Gulf Coast of the US. Her laboratory’s community ecology research focuses on plant-microbial interactions and how they are influenced by the environment and human stressors.