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Biology Overview 

Brian Kloeppel

Associate Professor
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC



B.S., Forest Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1989
M.S., Tree Physiology, Pennsylvania State University, 1992
Ph.D., Forest Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998
Professor Kloeppel teaches courses on watershed management, natural resource conservation, and policy and conducts research on forest ecosystem structure and function.
"Go outside and experience the world! Nothing beats learning about the natural world around us like seeing, feeling, smelling, experiencing, and traveling to fun and interesting locations."

What fields of biology do you work in?
Kloeppel: Forest Ecology.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
Kloeppel: I knew that I wanted to be involved in science since I was a child, but I did not know that I wanted to be an ecologist until I was in college and became involved in course work and research.

Q: What was your college experience like?
Kloeppel: I had a very "hands on" program in Forest Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I was involved in course work, labs, and research projects. The large university provided me with a lot of opportunities to be involved in sports, music, and other activities in several departments. 

Q: Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
Kloeppel: Absolutely! I was able to work with several faculty members to help earn my way through college while at the same time being trained with the tools and techniques in the Department of Forest Ecology and Management.

Q: How did you get your first job?
Kloeppel: After college and graduate school, my first job was with the University of Georgia where I was employed at a biological field station near Otto, North Carolina called Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. I was aware of the research of a few people who were advertising the position.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
Kloeppel: The most rewarding thing is being able to educate people and conduct research on the natural resource management options that we have as professionals and citizens. 

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've worked on has positively impacted the world?
Kloeppel: Yes, educating students is rewarding because you are able to see the impact that knowledge has on the career and life choices that students make after taking your course. Research tends to have more long-term impacts such as the ability to predict how forest growth and development may change as a result of the impacts of global climate change.

Q: Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Kloeppel: I typically travel for work about five times per year for research, meetings, and as a consultant and I try to take a couple other trips with family and friends to fun and interesting places.

Q: Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
Kloeppel: I have a few more senior colleagues whose career choices I admire that I seek advice from. My college advisor and research professors were excellent sources of advice while I was in college to help determine what I wanted to do with my life and career.

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Kloeppel: I work more in a team situation whether it is in education or in research. The specialties needed and the sizes of the projects are more than most people can do on their own.

Q: Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while working in your current job?
Kloeppel: Yes, but maintaining a family and work balance can be challenging especially when some travel is involved. Always make sure not to forget who or what is most important in your life.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Kloeppel: Yes. However, I find that the interest that I had in math, science, and computers as a child may have led me more to a career in computer science if I was in college now since students seem to have a declining exposure to the natural world. I do whatever I can to expose students to outdoor experiences.

Q: Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in the real world?
Kloeppel: Yes, the frustrations that students experience in group projects may be more like reality. However, it is rare for students to have any training in conflict resolution which we all use on a daily basis to complete nearly all projects.

Q: Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
Kloeppel: I see jobs for field biologists and ecologists in education, management, and consulting. The tools and techniques needed in biology and ecology require more specialized tools and training than in the past and therefore more education and continued training throughout a career. The best preparation that students can do to prepare themselves now is to learn and experience all of the math and science that you can get. Also, read all that you can since it will continue to provide you with tools and options for solving problems.

Q: What other advice do you have for precollege students?
Kloeppel: Go outside and experience the world! Nothing beats learning about the natural world around us like seeing, feeling, smelling, experiencing, and traveling to fun and interesting locations.


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