James A. Duke grant to support ethnobotanical studies of the Amazon and Andes

The Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) is now accepting application for their James A. Duke grant to support ethnobotanical studies of the Amazon and Andes by Latin American graduate students (including Latin American students enrolled at US Universities).  Guidelines are available HERE.  If you have any questions, please contact ACEER’s director, Dr. Nora Bynum.

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what each of us can do to protect biodiversity

Team alumnus, Brian Machovina, recently published a very nice article about the role of meat consumption in biodiversity conservation.  The article appears in the online magazine Ensia and is entitled “THE NUMBER ONE THING EACH OF US CAN DO TO PROTECT BIODIVERSITY”

Agriculture expansion is the leading driver of natural habitat loss worldwide. However, most of this growth is not to produce vegetables, fruits or grains to be eaten by people. Ecosystems are destroyed overwhelmingly to feed livestock…to keep reading please click HERE.

Small meat portion on plate of vegetables, grains and legumes

Illustration from the article. Image by Kelsey King

Dr. Mark Bush visits FIU

Invited by the FIU Biology Graduate Students Association and hosted by the Feeley Lab, Dr. Mark Bush from Florida Institute of Technology came to give a Bio-Seminar at FIU.

Dr. Bush is a world expert in the study of biogeography through the use of palynology (the study of pollen). However his interests do not stop there; he has undergone wide research on topics that vary from the collapse of the Pleistocene megafauna, to the recent megadroughts in the Amazon forest, and the impact of global events of climatic variability in past and current vegetation.  He is a lead investigator in the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group and he has collaborated with Ken Feeley on one of our most important papers: “Upslope migration of Andean trees”.

Even more, during relaxed conversation he can talk about the future of science, the ecology of South Florida, and he even showed us a new app that he has developed for frog-call identification – “WhatFrog?”. He definitely has a broad range of interests.

Bio-Seminar FIU

Bio-Seminar FIU

His talk:  “Forests and Megafauna in the Ice-Age Amazon-Andes” was one of the most crowded of this year’s Bio-Seminar Series.  In his talk it was again obvious the variety of topics that interrelate in his research, from past to present interactions of plants and animals, to the impact of humans.

In addition to the talk, Dr. Bush day at FIU was packed with meetings with people who wanted to talk to him and get an insight on his research. He gave very valuable advice to graduate students such as: “remember that you are doing a thesis, not the thesis”- which I will have in my mind from now on.

From everyone in the Feeley Lab, we thank you Dr. Bush for sharing your day with us.

Going Graduate?

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The final semesters of an undergraduate education are an exciting time for many students as they are confronted with how to apply their education. Volunteering, interning, and jobs are usually the first things that come to mind for soon-to-be graduates, but members of FIU’s GLADES Club were curious about what it takes to pursue a graduate degree. This past Tuesday GLADES undergraduates organized a panel of current graduate
students and professors to discuss the processes of searching for and applying to graduate ecology programs. The panel included PhD students Belén Fadrique, Jeremy May, and Timothy Perez (me), while professors were represented by Drs John Kominoski, Ken Feeley, and Lidia Kos.  Below are some of the important items we discussed
that many people pursuing graduate school are unaware of:

  • Don’t pay for Grad School! Unlike undergraduate degrees you should not pay for graduate school. In most graduate programs, students are actually paid a modest salary – typically through scholarships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. However, tuition is typical for professional degrees like MDs, DDSs, etc., but not PhDs.
  • You DO NOT need a master’s degree to pursue a PhD. In fact, masters programs are becoming increasingly harder to find and fund. Anyways, sometimes research experience is as valuable as a master’s degree…
  • Get research experience! Good grades and great GRE scores are always helpful, but there is no substitute for doing actual science. Grad school is a lot of research, so get practice now! This will help you decide if you actually want to go to grad school too. You will also likely get practice writing and presenting research, which are valuable skills for graduate school. Shameless plug: Feeley lab now looking for undergraduate research assistants! Contact us for details!
  • Apply to the Advisor and the Program – not necessarily the school. When you apply to a graduate program, at least in ecology, you are really applying to work with the advisor. In other words, make sure you are familiar with and interested in a potential advisor’s research. It is just as important that you get along with your potential advisor – send your potential advisor emails, Skype, and make a visit to their lab if you can to see if it is a good fit. Of course, a supportive and collaborative department or program is also an important consideration.
  • Network. Like most professions, academia has its fair share of networking. By being interested in others’ research, talking to co-workers, forming collaborations – basically being a curious and gregarious person – you will increase gain a leg-up on competition via word-of-mouth opportunities.

Lastly, I offer my own two cents. I recommend recent graduates to thoroughly explore their interests before applying to grad school. Graduate school can be a lot fun, but it is also a lot of work, requires lots of dedication, and takes multiple years to complete. Before you decide to apply to a graduate program ask yourself if is really what you want. If you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else except graduate school, then get those applications ready!

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