Biological Sciences (minor in Mathematical Sciences), Purdue
Zoology, The Ohio State University
Zoology, The Ohio State University
conducts research in which he asks both applied and basic
questions, at the interface between management and basic
ecology. He uses this process in the mentoring of graduate
and undergraduate students, as well as in providing service to
the university and broader community.
"Enjoy the work that
you do. As you work through your undergraduate years, sample areas of
interest to you to decide what you like to do. Get as much research
experience as you can (if that is the direction you choose) in a variety
of areas. Read, study hard, but balance it with fun from time to time."
fields of biology do you work in?
Aquatic Ecology/Fish Ecology.
When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
My sophomore year as an undergraduate when I took
What was your college experience like?
The first few years were ok, with some tough
classes that I had to make it through. After "Introductory Ecology" in
my sophomore year, I started working in a Professor's lab on a study of
the ecology of pond snails. After that, I decided on the direction that
I wanted my education to take, and because I was entering my third year,
my courses were more focused in my area of interest, so the remainder of
my undergraduate years were great.
Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
Yes, I was extremely fortunate to be able to work
in a Professor's lab for four years (my B.S. degree took me 5 years, as
I had to work to pay for my tuition along the way). This work experience
provided me with an excellent introduction to what research actually is,
and allowed me to be directly involved in all aspects of the research
effort, from data collection in the field, to sample processing in the
lab, to data entry and analysis, and paper preparation. This experience
led to two publications from my undergraduate years, and gave me the
experience and background to be competitive as I started to look for
How did you get your first job?
I was very lucky -- I applied for numerous
positions as I was finishing my Ph.D. degree at Ohio State, was able to
get two interviews, and was offered my current position at Auburn
University based on one of those interviews.
What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
I love conducting research to answer questions,
some of which help people in a variety of ways, some of which are the
pursuit of knowledge for knowledge sake. The work I conduct deals with
diverse areas such as fisheries management to conservation of our
natural resources, so I get to be involved in a wide variety of
activities. Seeing a research effort through from the idea phase, to
obtaining the necessary funding, to conducting the research, analyzing
data, writing the paper, and eventually publishing it is incredibly
Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've
worked on has positively impacted the world?
In some of our work with a prey fish species
(gizzard shad), we have shown how their use as supplemental prey for
some sport fishes may actually lead to competition and negative effects
when young gizzard shad and young sport fishes feed on the same
small-sized prey. This has helped lead to better decision making when it
comes to managing fisheries resources in these sorts of systems.
Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Not really. I don't get into the field as much as
I would like, but I do usually travel to 3 or 4 scientific meetings each
Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
As an undergraduate, I had a great advisor who
included me in his research lab, providing me with my first introduction
into scientific research, and providing me with excellent background to
allow me to get into a great graduate program. As a graduate student, I
had an outstanding advisor who I am proud to say I still interact with
as a friend, a mentor, and a colleague.
Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Definitely in a team situation. I work closely
with another faculty member and we collaborate on most of our research
projects. I also collaborate from time to time with other faculty, and
include all of our graduate students and undergraduate students in our
discussions as team members.
Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while
working in your current job?
Yes. It is not always easy, but I am proud of the
fact that I have been able to simultaneously be successful in my career
and be closely involved with my family. I had two children while I was
still in graduate school and a third as I started my position at Auburn,
and have always found a way to attend all of their school activities,
programs, sporting events, etc. To me it has always been a matter of
balance, and I feel that I have been able to find that balance between
work and home.
If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Yes. I enjoy what I do and like the opportunities,
rewards, and flexibility that an academic research/teaching position has
Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in
the real world?
Yes. My undergraduate education provided me with
the general classroom "stuff" that one needs, as well as great hands-on
research experiences. My graduate education had a combination of a great
advisor and a solid graduate program that set me up to know what was
expected of me in a real world job.
Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students
be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
I think that the typical places will remain in
academia, state agencies, and federal agencies, although in the aquatic
ecology arena there will likely be more emphasis on non-game species,
endangered species (versus sport fish species), and on human uses of
What other advice do you have for precollege students?
Enjoy the work that you do. As you work through
your undergraduate years, sample areas of interest to you to decide what
you like to do. Get as much research experience as you can (if that is
the direction you choose) in a variety of areas. Read, study hard, but
balance it with fun from time to time.