Current employer: Ecologist, Gulf Ecology Division, Environmental Protection Agency
Degree: PhD, 2002
Lab: Chesapeake Biological Laboratory
Adviser: Walter Boynton
What do you do in your current job? Most days are a mixture of trying to work and write with a series of meetings and conference calls, probably two to three a day. I’m trying to learn and adjust to doing things in a lot of directions at the same time.
I have a group of 13 folks whom I work with locally, and I have people who I interact with in Washington, D.C., Research Triangle Park, and in Oregon and San Francisco—so I go time zone to time zone meeting with people. We’re really tracking the progress of work and exchanging ideas and keeping people informed.
What inspires you about your work? In the beginning, I was really fascinated with looking at the natural world and looking at what data can show us about how ecosystems work and seeing patterns and relationship that aren’t necessarily obvious immediately. I’m passionate about having the world we live in have a good environment that we can benefit from. That’s one reason why I enjoy working for the EPA. I like taking research we’re doing and seeing it used to take actions to protect the environment.
How did your time at UMCES prepare you for your career? I think the wonderful thing about UMCES is that there is an understanding that we need to attack problems with an interdisciplinary perspective. Doing research that will address and solve problems—not just academic curiosity but problem solving mentality—set me up for the kind of work I do now.
There are a lot of things that might be fun and interesting, but if grad school is setting you up for a successful career, students should look around and see where research is needed and what is the direction for our priorities in the future.
What do you think makes UMCES unique? UMCES has the terrific opportunity of being at the heart of a fantastic place to do research with the Chesapeake Bay and being close to the nation’s capital. There’s an opportunity there to understand how political winds can support policy. The school is also is very rigorous. They do good science with strong faculty and graduate students who are very well prepared and do well in their careers.
What is your advice for current students? Students should look at the way their work could or will be used to solve real, practical problems. There are a lot of things that might be fun and interesting, but if grad school is setting you up for a successful career, students should look around and see where research is needed and what is the direction for our priorities in the future. Research grants are competitive and it’s easier to get support if you are solving significant environment problems with your research.