Beth A. Middleton

From a “Focus on Ecologists” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2009-2011.

Full Name Beth A. Middleton
Degree PhD
Job Position Research Ecologist
Organization National Wetlands Research Center
Department Forest Ecology
Professional Affiliation Academic
Research Discipline Biogeography, Botany, Disturbance Ecology, Ecosystem Ecology, Plant Ecology, Wetlands Ecology
Research Habitat Wetlands
Research Organism Freshwater plants
Describe what you do and briefly describe the activities that your job encompasses I work on the effects of climate change on wetland function and biodiversity. My work in the U.S. is in sedge meadows and baldcypress swamps in Wisconsin and the Mississippi River Alluvial Valley. Research takes me various places around the world including India, Turkey, Belize, and Costa Rica.
What do you love most about your job? Science is a way of knowing that is not possible using any other approach.
For each degree you’ve obtained, list the degree, field, and institution. Iowa State University, Department of Botany, Ph.D., 1989
University of Minnesota (Duluth), Department of Biology, M.S., 1983.
University of Wisconsin (Madison), Department of Botany, B.S., 1978
Briefly describe your job path. I made a straight-line move to my career path. I’ve wanted to be a botanist since I saw my first wild plants in the woods when I was about 4 or 5 years old.
What challenges did you need to overcome? I was the first person in my family to go to college. I didn’t have financial or social support for what I wanted to do.
What’s one thing you hope to do in the future? I hope to continue to do what I do.
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? While my job is to save the world, swamp work is not for everyone.
What is your family background and what did they think of your career choice? My family was not at all supportive of what I wanted to do because they had no experience with professional careers. They were not supportive until the day I graduated with my Ph.D.
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist (or other profession)? John Muir and the Lodi Marsh.
Who currently inspires you? John Muir, Mohatma Gandhi.
What is the most valuable advice a mentor gave you or that you would offer to someone who’d like to do the same job as you? Students are often discouraged from doing what they want to do as a career, and science students are often told that there are no jobs in science. I point out to students that I was told the same thing but I didn’t listen. If you have a dogged passion about what you do, you will find a way to support yourself in your chosen profession.
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist (or other profession)? My research is connected to nature.
How do you feel your work has contributed to society? My flood pulsing work shows that you can’t restore wetlands without restoring the dynamic forces of hydrology, i.e., wetlands need to flood.


Award Name Society of Wetland Scientists Merit Award for the book “Wetland Restoration, Flood Pulsing and Disturbance Dynamics”
Year originally profiled. 2009
Year profile was last updated. 2010

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