For as long as I can remember, I have been awestruck by the natural world. Since my early days of befriending garter snakes and gray squirrels, my knowledge has expanded and my interests have matured. Generally speaking, I am intrigued and captivated by the complex relationships that animals, particularly large mammals, have with both the living and non-living elements of their environment. This interest has led me to pursue a career in wildlife biology/ecology. As human impact on the natural environment continues to increase, I find it critical that we continue to gather data about our valued wildlife resources so we can sustainably manage their populations.
What does this work entail you ask? I have had the privilege of working with such charismatic species as gray wolves, black bears, bobcats, bison and white-tailed deer. Studying these species has brought me to places like the wilds of Yellowstone National Park and the north woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. To collect data on these creatures, I have employed both invasive and non-invasive methods. For example, through powerful spotting scopes I have observed and collected behavioral data on how wolves in Yellowstone National Park interact with both each other and the animals that they prey upon. Regarding black bears, I have had multiple opportunities to handle these powerful and resourceful omnivores in order place Global Positioning System radio-collars on them. These radio-collars are invaluable in uncovering how they move about the landscape and what sort of food resources they are exploiting.
In the future I hope to acquire a PhD in wildlife ecology. With a graduate degree and my background in wildlife field work, I will ensure that I have the tools to effectively understand and manage wildlife.
How do you think naturalists and scientists can use technology?
I believe technology can be useful to naturalists and scientists in two major ways. First, technology continues to revolutionize the way we collect data about wildlife. For example, as electronics become more compact and battery life increases, animal transmitters will soon be able to be easily implanted and provide spatial data at an extremely fine scale. As I touched on before, information like this can be used to more effectively manage wildlife populations. Information about an animal’s home-range, the amount of area an animal inhabits, could be useful in establishing appropriately sized preserves.
Second, technology has enormous potential to both better connect people to the natural world and teach them in novel ways about the challenges that the global ecosystem faces. As urbanization of the human race continues, I believe people and cultures are becoming increasingly disconnected with nature. At a fundamental level, this is a problem because that disconnect erodes the value that people put on the natural world and its essential services. Technology can help alleviate this disconnect by showing people how truly amazing the natural world is in a multitude of ways. For example, through video technology like Google Glass you can transport someone from a cityscape to an alpine mountainside for a mountain goat capture or the raw wilderness of Alaska to observe and explain how brown bears fish for salmon. The applications are limitless and have the potential to inspire people to learn about and conserve the natural world.
What is your favorite…
Mountaineering. There is no better feeling like perching atop a rocky summit after toiling for hours and gazing at the lowlands all around.
Nature-based memory from childhood?
Canoeing on the placid morning water of Big Moose Lake in Adirondack State Park, NY, with a lone loon calling through the mist.
Gray wolf. With their readily interpretable social behavior and amazing physical prowess, I can’t come to choose any other animal. It also doesn’t hurt that I have held a 116lb adult alpha male in my own two hands!
I once did a research paper on carnivorous pitcher plants, and the diversity of adaptations they had to catch their prey was astounding! I’m not a plant guy, but I was quite impressed with that group of plants.
Place to visit?
Up to this point in my life, I must say that the Andean highlands of Ecuador and the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park take the cake on this question.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I believe my career goals as a child fluxed about, but the most steady interest was in wildlife biology. I’d say Mr. Steve Irwin had a bit to do with that.
What motivates you to work in nature?
Everyday that I spend in the field, I am increasingly impressed with the complexity of interactions and resilience that the animals I study have. Due to these factors, my curiosity and desire to learn more only increases with time.
Wildlife technician for the National Park Service in Grand Teton National Park. Research will include studying the ecology of bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn antelope, and multiple bird species.
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
Science of Natural and Environmental Systems
Bachelor of Science (Dec 2011), Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)