Daniel Gavin

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

Degree                                                       Ph.D. 2000 (University of Washington)
Position                                                     Research Associate
Department                                               Department of Botany
Organization                                             University of Vermont

W.S. Cooper Award for 2005

dgavin

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

I have always enjoyed traveling and exploring natural areas. It always was a goal of mine to find ways to work in the outdoors. My parents encouraged me to study ecology. My undergraduate advisor at Dartmouth, David Peart, introduced me to forest ecology research, and along with Laura Conkey also at Dartmouth, to tree-ring analysis. Right out of college, David Peart sponsored me as a research technician on a forest ecology project for over a year in Indonesian Borneo, which was truly a life-shaping experience.

How did you learn about ecological careers?  What is your position title now?

I am a research associate in the Department of Botany at the University of Vermont. I have learned about careers mainly through word of mouth from networks of colleagues and friends. Keeping your eye on job ads and infinitum is taxing; I pass interesting jobs on to friends and hope for the same.

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?

After working in Borneo, and thinking about forest dynamics at time scales that are relevant to forest trees, I was drawn towards paleoecological approaches to forest ecology. I entered graduate school at the College of Forest Resources (CFR), University of Washington and had the tutelage of Linda Brubaker and Ken Lertzman at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Both are role models for how I want to approach research. With seven plant ecology faculty on the same floor, CFR was a great environment for a graduate student. Linda has a reputation at CFR as a thorough editor. While it may have been frustrating at times, I realize now that the biggest gift an advisor can give is teaching how to craft a paper through the frequent back-and-forth process of editing. I recently completed a post-doc with Feng Sheng Hu at the University of Illinois, where I learned a dozen techniques for analyzing sediment records.  In my sub-discipline, one very tangible challenge is getting a good sediment core from the bottom of a lake. One learns a lot about doing remote fieldwork with 1000 pounds of gear. These challenges culminated while helping Linda and Wyatt Oswald core lakes on the North Slope of Alaska in 0 degree F weather. Freezing core rods, broken gear, and days of waiting for weather to clear for a bush plane to reach us…ecology field work often produces some adventure stories!

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