Nancy Grimm

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

Degree                                                      Ph.D. 1985 (Arizona State University)
Position                                                    Professor
Department                                              School of Life Sciences
Organization                                            Arizona State University

ngrimm

When did you get interested in ecology?

Although I have always enjoyed the outdoors, I was not a budding ecologist growing up. I went to college with no earthly idea of what I wanted to do, thinking maybe something having to do with foreign languages would be appealing. It was the first class I took in ecology at Hampshire College that got me interested – and in that class, it was literally the walks in the woods asking questions about forest structure, fire history, geomorphology, and decomposition that attracted me to the field. To take an advanced class in ecology I gravitated to the legendary ‘Aquatic Ecosystems’ class taught at Amherst College by Stuart Fisher, and that got me hooked. An experience with the ‘Stream Team’ at Oregon State University as an undergraduate solidified my interest in stream ecosystems.

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’m currently a Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Science in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, where I am the lead PI on the Central Arizona Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project.I stumbled into the idea of graduate school, but then quickly got ‘astute’ once there. I got to my present position via 5 years on soft money, 4 years as an untenured research professional, 3 years tenured research professional, 2 years associate professor, then full professor—all of this after graduate school (both M.S. and Ph.D.) at the same institution.

Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?

Stan Gregory was an early inspiration with a great mind and lots of encouragement for an undergraduate neophyte. Steve Carpenter has offered sage advice and opened many doors for me, while Jim Collins was instrumental in ensuring that my career progressed even while I stayed at ASU.

What key advice would you offer a student today?

Seize opportunities to explain your science and why it’s important. You should always have a ready answer if the guy on the street asks (this is a lot easier and more clearly necessary in urban ecology!). Think about how you would convince your mother that what you are doing is worthwhile. That should do the trick.

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