Michael Collins

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

Position                                     Science Instructor
Department                               Tribal Environmental Science Department
Organization                             United Tribes Technical College

mcollins

When did you get interested in ecology? Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?

I come by my passion for the environment, nature, and what we now refer to as Ecology through my parents and grandparents who have always lived close to the land. As pioneers and cattle ranchers in New Mexico for four generations my mother’s family have always held a love and deep respect for God’s Creation. I have been outdoors most of my life, roaming the prairie, hills and woods of eastern New Mexico, West Texas, central England’s Sherwood Forest area, and eastern Washington, as a boy. Later, as a teenager, I worked summers on my grandparent’s ranch where I developed a strong interest in the complex ecology of the Great Plains. As a Geologist this interest was deepened through intense formal scientific education and research throughout the U. S. and Guatemala. Dr. Phili Deboo at Eastern New Mexico University and Dr. Steve Kessler at LSU were instrumental in guiding me toward my ultimate occupation as a college instructor, after fourteen years in the Marines and another twenty-one years in the oil and gas industry.

As a science instructor in tribal colleges and universities in the Northern Plains I have renewed my relation to the prairie ecosystem and cherish the opportunity to associate with and learn from the First Peoples of this land. The Lakota elders who have opened their homes and shared their life way and indigenous wisdom with me, I owe a debt of eternal gratitude. They have imparted an appreciation for the interrelationship of all things to me , which I, in turn strive to impart to the learners in my courses. My challenge is to do justice to the vast body of unwritten wisdom accumulated through the millennia by my Native American friends and family, doing what I am able to ensure that their knowledge is passed on to their current and future generations.

What key advice would you offer a student today?

The best advice I can offer someone interested in a career in Ecology is to: pursue learning with a passion, acquire a multidisciplinary educational foundation in the pure and natural sciences, cultivate relationships with mentors and advisors who are genuinely interested in your success,  work hard, but don’t forget to enjoy the beauty and daily miracles of nature unfolding all around you, and  make a commitment to “ give something back” to ensure a nurturing legacy for those generations to follow, then do it.

What advice do you have for communicating ecology to diverse audiences?

Communicating ecology to diverse audiences is best done through multimedia, as people have different styles of learning and assimilating information. Following professional standards and ethics while balancing scientific research outcomes with “indigenous wisdom” gives your audience access to the best of both worlds. Peer review is the true test of your message.

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