Jim Clark

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.

Degree                                  Ph.D. 1988 (University of Minnesota)
Position                                Professor
Department                          The Nicholas School of the Environment and Biology
Organization                        Duke University

jclarkWhen did you get interested in ecology? Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?
I spent my early years chasing bugs, birds, crayfish, and most things that move. Since the early years, my mother complained about samples in the freezer, chemistry experiments in the basement, and re-landscaping the yard to accommodate transplants from the surrounding forests and fields. (My parents were really very supportive).

How did you learn about ecological careers -what is your position title now?
I’ve benefited from some great mentors, notably Bill Patterson, my MS advisor at Massachusetts, and Herb Wright, my PhD advisor at Minnesota. The extent to which both have shaped my career is obvious from the research topics that continue to dominate our lab. I am professor of the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Biology at Duke University, where my research focuses on how global change affects forests and grasslands.

Describe your route to a career in (or using) ecology. What challenges did you need to overcome? What was your training, and what positions have you held?
I received a B.S. from the North Carolina State University in Entomology (1979), a M.S. from the University of Massachusetts in Forestry and Wildlife (1984), and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Ecology (1988). Between my M.S. and Ph.D., studied one year at the University of Göttingen under a Fulbright-DAAD fellowship. I served as the Director of Graduate Studies for the University Program in Ecology and as Director of the Center on Global Change.

What key advice would you offer a student today?
For the aspiring ecologist, I could only add to the many valuable things that have already been said. Science is for those with enthusiasm, creativity, willingness to entertain the unexpected, an entrepreneurial spirit, communication skills, and a desire to use them often. Increasingly, it is important to define yourself broadly, attacking problems based on their importance, rather than on the toolbox that came with your PhD training.

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