I guide a variety of student research projects every year, and encourage students to reach out to discuss potential common interests. Visit my Research page to see my research priorities.
I have 4 main projects that I am currently focused on:
- Legacies of black locust invasion on soil nitrogen dynamics at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve
- Application of garlic mustard demography to the design of effective restoration strategies
- Economic impacts of invasive species in New York
- Environmental and biological controls of invasive species in National Parks
While it is not a hard-and-fast requirement, I am more likely to agree to advise a student with whom I have had experience, such as in one of my classes. I do require that Senior Thesis students enroll in my Plant Ecology (BIO324) at some point during your career – there is no better way of learning the areas of science that I am interested in.
Research in my lab can take many forms:
- Biology Research Practicum (BIO291-293) – The Practicum is a way of getting experience doing research with me without the same time demands of a formal thesis. I expect Practicum students to devote 3-5 hours per week, including time meeting with me, on their work. Students receive one course’s worth of credit (though not Biology Major credit) after taking 3 terms.
- Summer Research Fellowships – Union College has generous funding to support student research during the summer. These can be in the form of either 4- or 8-week Fellowships. The deadline to apply for Summer Research Fellowships is in early February, but it is important that we start planning by the middle of January, at the latest.
- Independent Study – I have advised a variety of one-term projects focused on a finite issue or question.
- Senior Thesis Research – This is the most extensive of the research opportunities at Union College. It involves a significant time commitment and result in an original piece of scholarship. I advise projects in both the Biology and also Environmental Science Departments. I only take 1-2 students per year, though, and I often make my decisions quite early.
What to do before you come and talk to me:
- You’re in the right place. See what my research interests are. Think about areas where our interests overlap. It isn’t necessary to know what specific project you want to do before you come and talk to me. But you should already have some idea of what I do and what you find most interesting.
- The earlier we begin discussions the better.
- A variety of backgrounds and areas of knowledge can be useful in the kind of research that I do. Of particular interest would be experience with computer coding (e.g. Python or R), GIS, or statistics.
Graduate School – What it is, how to apply – OK, you like research. Your undergraduate career is coming to a close. You want to pursue additional opportunities. HOW???
- There are two broad categories of graduate school in ecology: research-oriented degrees and professional degrees. The former typically offers only Masters degrees; the latter offers Masters and PhD’s. They are very different from each other. Professional degrees, from such institutions as Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, or some of the degrees from SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, NY, offer an interdisciplinary education that is focused on classwork and internships with nationally recognized non-profits or public agencies. They are typically 2-year programs. Graduate programs that offer research-oriented degrees are far more numerous and the focus is on original research in a 2-3 or 6-7 year time-frame, depending on the degree.
- Masters or PhD? The answer depends first on what you want to do. If you are interested in academia, then you must get a PhD. But that doesn’t mean you need to start in a PhD program. In fact, Josh Drew at Columbia University argues convincingly that you should get a Masters’ Degree first, no matter what your ultimate goal. I tend to agree – the experience and CV-building you get while earning your Masters will make you a more competitive applicant for PhD programs, and it will likely pay off in the long run.
- This is a beyond-awesome post by Jacquelyn Gill about the first step in applying to graduate school. The title says it all: “So you want to go to grad school? Nail the inquiry email.”
- Here is a good collection of posts by Ryan McEwan at the University of Dayton about applying to graduate school – everything from GREs to choosing a mentor to funding to “Get a Master’s Degree!”
- Yale’s School of the Environment and Forestry maintains an excellent page of links to a variety of job listings, plus advice on such topics as resume writing, interview prep, etc.