NSF Minority Postdoctoral
University of Toronto at Scarborough, Department of Biological Sciences,
Integrative Behaviour and Neuroscience Group
in Liberal Studies, 1999 – College of the Sequoias, Visalia, CA
in Secondary Science Education, Biological Sciences, 2002 -
Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, OK
in College Teaching of Biology, 2004 – Northeastern State
University, Tahlequah, OK
in Biological Sciences, 2007 – University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK
field and laboratory research focused on questions that
investigate how insects receive, process and respond to acoustic
and vibrational sensory stimuli in making reproductive,
foraging, defensive and social decisions in their natural
that college is merely a portal for the career path you would like to
fields of biology do you work in?
Animal behavior and
When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
Although I began training in the field of
biological sciences as a second career, I have been interested in insect
behavior since I was a young boy living in the grasslands of central
What was your college experience like?
Unlike many others who attend a university
directly after high school, I had a non-traditional college experience.
I returned to college at the age of 32, after working in the business
sector for 14 years. However at that point in my life and career, I
found it very easy to remain focused and motivated on my academic and
Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
My work experiences allowed me to more easily
prioritize my academic tasks and set achievable and yet challenging
goals throughout my undergraduate years.
How did you get your first job?
I graduated with a degree in secondary science
education in 2002, and accepted a position as a science instructor at
the local high school. I began teaching high school biology and earth
sciences in a small town in Oklahoma with a high Native American
population, and there began to involve myself and my students in
biological field research projects.
What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
After completing a masters degree in my field
while still teaching high school science, I left public school teaching
to pursue my doctoral degree in biology with support from the NSF
Graduate Research Fellowship Program. I had become keenly interested in
insect behavior questions during research experiences with my high
school students and conducted original research in this field while
working on my Ph.D. research at the University of Tulsa. Biology is a
tremendously broad field, with countless important and fascinating
niches spanning inter-related disciplines such as microbiology,
genetics, bioinformatics, evolution, ecology and an endless array of
other fields. This allows students and professionals alike to focus
their efforts and attention on systems that are of particular interest
to the person conducting the research. For me that was insect behavioral
ecology. Moreover, this career field allows for research and study in a
myriad of fascinating places with tremendously interesting people. While
I work out of the University of Toronto now, I conduct research on
islands off the coast of New Zealand with the indigenous Maori and in
the tallgrass prairie region of the south-central USA with American
Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've
worked on has positively impacted the world?
While much of my research is focused on insect
communication, I am also keenly interested in conservation issues, and
my research has provided insights into management techniques that can
optimize the conservation of endangered or threatened species.
Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
travel as required to visit my field research sites in New Zealand and
Oklahoma, and to attend scientific meetings. In my case, this translates
into a fair amount of domestic and international travel.
Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
My mentor is my Ph.D. supervisor, Dr. Peggy Hill.
She is a tenured faculty member at the university where I completed my
doctoral degree, and continues to provide me with a tremendous amount of
support and encouragement in my academic career. Like me, she entered
college as a non-traditional student later in life after teaching high
school science and thus was able to understand many of the challenges I
Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
In my field I have opportunities to work both
independently and in collaborative settings. However, much of my work is
completed alone or with a small group of collaborators in the field, so
it is important to be able to function effectively in any of these
Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while
working in your current job?
Finding balance is always a challenge, whether one
is a student or practicing professional in this field. The important
component to this issue is to realize that time spent with family and
friends in a non-professional setting is important to maintaining health
and happiness. As in any endeavor, achieving balance is key to success
in broader terms than just one's career, and this will mean something
different to each person. Working in the biological sciences can be
demanding and time intensive, and thus seeking to maintain this balance
needs to be a focused priority. For me this means allocating time for
myself and my hobbies (hiking, kayaking, running) and for my family and
If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Definitely! I love my career field and am pleased
that I am doing that for which my years of training have prepared me.
Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in
the real world?
think that the years one invests in college preparing for work and/or
research in the biological sciences is valuable in the context of how
much one puts into the endeavor. If you strive to become a true scholar
in your field, new challenges will only be viewed as opportunities for
success rather than disruptive obstacles. While much is learned 'on the
ground' so to speak, the training that one receives in the classroom,
laboratory and field settings is crucial to laying a foundation for
success in the biological sciences.
Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students
be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
think that future biologists need to continue to be broadly trained to
leverage opportunities in a variety of fields. Interests change and
opportunities and funding in this field evolve over time, and thus
flexibility is important. Saying that, I would strongly encourage young
biologists to build a foundation that includes a strong foundation in
bioinformatics, biostatistics, and mathematics. These skills can be
applied across biological disciplines. Additionally, training in the use
of geospatial technologies (GIS) can be very useful in answering a
myriad of questions and biologists with these skill sets are in high
What advice do you have for precollege students?
Understand that college is merely a portal for the
career path you would like to pursue. In a sense it's the admission
price for the great show we call life. I have always enjoyed studying
insects, and I now get paid to go to exotic locations and observe and
study them. By attending college, taking a wide variety of survey
courses, and involving yourself in undergraduate research and
internships, you will discover which subjects and fields absolutely
fascinate and consume you. Then take the time to learn what you need to
do to work in that field and do it. This sounds simplistic, but if I and
countless others can accomplish this, so can YOU!