Charles A. "Chuck" McClaugherty
Director, Brumbaugh Center for Environmental Science,
The Dr. John D. Brumbaugh Professor of Ecology and Environmental Science
Mount Union College
Forest Ecology. University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1983
directs a field station for college teaching and research and
environmental education for all ages.
"Work very hard and
discover what you love and pursue it. Seek out good mentors."
fields of biology do you work in?
When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
Before high school.
What was your college experience like?
Awesome! As an undergraduate I studied wildlife
biology and entomology at Cornell University. My professors were
challenging and brilliant After working as a biologist for four years I
returned to academia to earn advanced degrees. Again I had incredible
teachers, mentors, and fellow students.
Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
I worked in a research lab on white tailed deer
and their ecological energetics.
How did you get your first job?
I had worked as a seasonal naturalist in the
Virginia State Park System and my first job out of College was as the
supervising naturalist for the state of Virginia, traveling to and
assisting with the interpretive programs in the state parks throughout
What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
Life is so diverse and so dynamic that every day
brings new knowledge or understanding along with a new level of
Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've
worked on has positively impacted the world?
I am primarily a teacher. My most positive impact
has been the students that I have mentored who have gone on to satisfying
and productive jobs in biology. My research is on decomposition in
forested ecosystems and has been useful in small ways in understanding
the potential of forests and forest soils to sequester carbon. This is,
of course, a significant issue as we consider the increase in carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere.
Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
I travel 1-2 weeks a year to professional meeting,
several months a year on research, and every other year I teach a class
on tropical biology in Costa Rica.
Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
I have had numerous academic mentors while a
student. Now my mentors are my colleagues.
Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Both. My teaching work is largely alone though I
work in a team as part of a department. My administrative work is always
as part of a team. My research usually involves at least one other
Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while
working in your current job?
Like ecology and the balance of nature -- It is
dynamic, never in balance but always seeking a balance. Sometimes my
work keeps me from doing what I want with my home and social life. Other
times my work offers the flexibility to spend time with my family. It is
If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in
the real world?
Yes, but I had some special circumstances that may
have helped. I was in ROTC and I had some very good summer jobs as I
Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students
be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
The future for biologists will be in health and
environment. Preparation will require development of problem solving and
question asking skills. That must be coupled with scientific
What other advice do you have for precollege students?
Work very hard and discover what you love and
pursue it. Seek out good mentors.