From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.
Department Department of Biology
Organization University of Arkansas at Little Rock
I wish I had collected bugs when I was 12! Many ecologists who did know so much about the outdoors. Despite this “deficiency,” I have still learned a lot about the natural world and have enjoyed myself even while sweating and swatting mosquitoes!
I think my love of nature was first instilled in me by my family, especially my mother. As a child, I was allowed to catch bugs and frogs, as long as I let them go the next day. My family also took walks in state parks and preserves on Sunday afternoons. These experiences provided a background for me even though I didn’t learn names or get big ideas from them.
My first professional view of nature came the year after I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biology. While working in the Herpetology Department at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, I often spent my lunch hour across the street from the museum in Central Park. Simultaneously, I read Ernst Mayr’s “Animal Species and Evolution” (mostly on my coffee breaks).
When I went to graduate school, interested in both ecology and evolution, I invested some of my spare time and energy in helping other grad students with their field projects. Another major influence in graduate school was taking OTS’s Tropical Biology course in Costa Rica. The most important professional aspect of this course was learning how to see questions and how to devise tactics for answering those questions.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle I faced was my own lack of confidence.
As a Professor of Biology, I do many different things. I teach, conduct and supervise research, serve as Book Review Editor for Ecology , provide a professional development program to math and science teachers, write inquiry-oriented labs, and volunteer my time to various non-profit ecological and educational organizations. Communicating with diverse audiences is vitally important. I think many people are interested in the natural world and even more would be interested if they were exposed to it. My recommendations about communicating to non- ecologists are 1) show your enthusiasm, 2) use pictures, 3) use simple words and avoid jargon and acronyms, 4) use short sentences, and 5) be receptive to questions.
My advice to students considering their futures is to be alert to opportunities—volunteer your time and effort without (within reason) considering the “cost.” Be persistent. Strive for excellence. Read widely. Look for connections and collaborations. Learn to write and speak well, do statistics, and set up web pages.