Home » Industry » Dear Young Scientists — A Letter From a Toronto Zoo Scientist

Dr. Gabriela Mastromonaco is a biologist and the Manager of Reproductive Sciences at the Toronto Zoo.

Dear young scientists,

Albert Einstein once said, “I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious.”

Curiosity is the foundation of all great scientific achievements. It was the driving force behind Marie Curie’s discovery of radioactivity and Roberta Bondar’s exploration of our fragile planet both above and on its surface. I was in grade 10 biology class when I became curious about the mysterious organisms inhabiting the tiny world that could only be seen under a microscope.

Bison and its baby at the Toronto Zoo

It started with cheek swabs and pond water on a home microscope kit, and ultimately moved on to the origins of life itself: sperm, eggs, and embryos. A sea urchin fertilization experiment in first-year biology led to further studies of sperm and embryos in cattle and dogs. My passion for understanding the reproductive biology of diverse species gave me the focus I needed through my university years and the foundation that prepared me for the job of my dreams.

As Manager of Reproductive Sciences at the Toronto Zoo, I’m fortunate to be continuously learning about the animals in our care, from pregnancy evaluation of our red pandas to artificial insemination of our wood bison. Our research has allowed us to develop much-needed tools to enhance reproductive success and store valuable genetic material indefinitely, both of which are fundamental steps in the long-term sustainability of threatened species. 

The path to becoming Canada’s only zoo-based reproductive scientist was neither direct nor easy. In the end, success wasn’t based on my academic marks, choice of university, or who I knew. It came down to a simple rule that I never stray from: be willing to take on any task no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time and then work hard to gain as much as possible from that experience. While there were certainly many added challenges that I encountered as a woman in a STEM career, I never let them interfere with my goals. Curiosity, after all, has no gender bias.   

Dr. Gabriela Mastromonaco

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