Sean Michaletz (2004)
From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.
Organization University of Calgary
Sean was the 2003 winner of the E. Lucy Braun Award for his poster “A process based approach for predicting surface fire effects on trees,” based on his master’s research at the University of Calgary. This award is presented to a student for the outstanding poster presentation at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting.
When did you become interested in ecology?
As a child I developed an affinity for nature during summers spent in the boreal forest of northern Minnesota. I became interested in the science of ecology through university coursework and the internship program at the University of Minnesota’s LTER site.
My primary influence has been Dr. Edward A. Johnson, who taught me to think critically, read widely, and use creative approaches to understand how nature works.
How did you learn about ecological careers?
I learned about careers in ecology through a combination of coursework, reading, and research experience. I am currently a graduate student and intend to continue my career in academia.
What advice do you have for communicating ecology to diverse audiences?
Communicating science can be very difficult. Tailor your message so that it is relevant to your audience. Simplify your message as much as possible without sacrificing its integrity.
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 have a B.A. in biology and environmental science, but it was my experience at the University of Minnesota’s LTER site that ultimately convinced me to pursue a career in ecology. There I learned what a career in research was really like. I worked with researchers from all areas of ecology and was able to conduct my own independent research projects. I am currently finishing my M.Sc. under supervision of E.A. Johnson and will begin a Ph.D. program. The most challenging aspects of my work result from a lack of mathematics and computer programming in my undergraduate programs. Unfortunately, this is a common problem among undergraduate biology programs.
What key advice would you offer a student today?
Start early and stay active. As an undergraduate, develop a strong background in the maths and hard sciences. This will be invaluable during graduate school and your subsequent career. Get a wide variety of research experiences to help you decide what field(s) to pursue during graduate school. Along the way, make an effort to meet and impress as many researchers as possible. This network will be important for future collaborations and job opportunities.