James MacMahon

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

Degree                                                 Ph.D. 1964 (University of Notre Dame)
Position                                               Director & Trustee Professor
Department                                         Ecology Center & Ecology
Organization                                       Utah State University

Distinguished Service Citation Award 2005

jmacMahonWhen did you get interested in ecology? Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?
I was lucky to work at a museum of natural history in Dayton, OH starting in the 7 th grade. The director had been a grad student of Victor Shelford. I was actually a snake chaser long before that. The fascination of snakes and frogs started my interest and that turned into a interest in scientific ecology.

How did you learn about ecological careers -what is your position title now?
I heard about ecological careers at the museum where I worked for many years that I mentioned above. I am currently the Director of the Ecology Center and Trustee Professor of Ecology at Utah State University.

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 worked at a museum after my Ph.D. then at two different universities. I have a BS in Zoology from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Notre Dame.

What key advice would you offer a student today?
Spend time in the field learning about plant and animal natural histories and get subjective familiarity with any system you propose to study.

What advice do you have for communicating ecology to diverse audiences?
Do not take your knowledge too seriously. Explain concepts in simple terms. Use examples from nature to punctuate your discussion of complex phenomena. People will recall interesting examples and, in turn, remember the concepts you want to impart.


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