Scott L. Collins

From a “Focus on Ecologists” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2009-2011.

Full Name Scott L. Collins
Degree PhD
Job Position Professor
Organization University of New Mexico
Department Department of Biology
Professional Affiliation Academic
Research Discipline Community Ecology
Research Habitat Grassland
Research Organism Terrestrial plants
Describe what you do and briefly describe the activities that your job encompasses As a professor, I teach upper division ecology courses, and I also teach in our Biology Major’s core course sequence. I serve on university and other committees. I spend a lot of time writing grant proposals, working with my graduate students, and reviewing and writing manuscripts for publication. I do field work (less than I would like) in New Mexico, Kansas and South Africa.
What do you love most about your job? Research allows me to spend time pursuing ideas I find interesting. I really enjoy collaborating with friends and working with my students. Also, I get to be in New Mexico which is a wonderful place to live and work.
For each degree you’ve obtained, list the degree, field, and institution. BA Biology, Wittenberg University, Springfield OH
MS Botany, Miami University, Oxford, OH
PhD Botany, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Briefly describe your job path. I went straight into graduate school from my undergraduate degree. I then had a 2.5 year teaching appointment at the University of Oklahoma. From there I did a postdoc at Rutgers University before returning to OU as an Assistant and then Associate Professor of Botany. In 1992 I went to the National Science Foundation as a Program Director in Ecology. In 2003 I moved to the University of New Mexico as a Professor of Biology and to serve as the Principal Investigator for the Sevilleta LTER Program.
What challenges did you need to overcome? A very difficult job market when I started, and then getting research funding is always a challenge.
What’s one thing you hope to do in the future? Go to Antarctica.
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? I tell them I work at the university. They usually want to know what I teach, so I say ecology courses. At that point they often ask if I “believe in” global change. At that point, I loose all restraint….
What is your family background and what did they think of your career choice? Neither of my parents graduated from college, but they always assumed I would. They were supportive when I wanted to go to graduate school even though they didn’t understand what that meant. My father is still very supportive even if he is completely mystified by what I do.
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist (or other profession)? I was encouraged to pursue ecological research by one of my undergraduate advisors. He had a huge influence on my life.
Who currently inspires you? My colleagues.
What is the most valuable advice a mentor gave you or that you would offer to someone who’d like to do the same job as you? Don’t give up, stay current, stay active, meet people, put yourself in a position to pursue opportunities.
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist (or other profession)? That I was a nice guy.
How do you feel your work has contributed to society? We all sell the value of our research in the same way. We say it will help us manage the planet better. Well, maybe it will or maybe it won’t. I think the training grants I have been involved with (GK12 and REU Sites) are perhaps more important contributions because they help give others a chance to improve knowledge through teaching and research opportunities.

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