PhD Candidate, Forest Ecologist
Colorado State University – Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have to say that I had no idea I would end up growing up to be a scientist. I have always been creative and curious, and I have always had a deep love of plants. But, I’m from a city-centric family. My family thinks that trips to Lincoln Park (Chicago) and Central Park (NYC) are outdoor adventures. I now work in truly challenging field sites (rainy southeast Alaska, anyone?). Who would have thought?
A fascination with ecosystem composition and function is what really drew me in. I just had to know. Two professors in my undergraduate career, Dr. Paul Alaback and Dr. Tom DeLuca, inspired me – so much so that I went on to get a Master’s degree under their direction. But, I guess I really just followed my passion. Ecology allowed me to explore, ponder, question, problem solve, and be creative.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
One of my dissertation projects is the coolest project I’ve ever worked on. I’m quantifying genetic diversity and gene flow across the range of Pinus contorta (the most widespread pine in western North America). To sample the species for genetic analysis, I traveled across the entire range of the species (from southern California north through Canada to southeast Alaska and east into the Rocky Mountains). This sampling trip allowed me to see the incredible diversity of natural ecosystems across the west AND learn about the ecology of my species.
I am inspired by passionate scientists. There are so many that it is really hard to name only a few.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I learn so much each and every day. There are infinite questions to ask and answers to pursue. I cannot imagine a more exciting, more challenging career.
Advice for future STEMinists?
You CAN do this. Do what you are passionate about, and everything will fall into place.
Well, our Early Career Ecologists blog, of course.