I’m originally from Connecticut where I explored the deciduous forests in my small hometown and developed a passion for the outdoors and existential philosophy, which of course led me to The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington on the other side of the country. There, I became obsessed with the forests, fungi, and lichens of the PNW and gained an appreciation for ecology, and more specifically mycorrhizal fungi and ecological networks. After graduating somewhat against my will, I found myself landscaping and working the occasional construction job prior to the realization that I should apply myself in the sciences and not in digging trenches. I then briefly worked for the BLM in Wyoming through an internship with Chicago Botanic Garden, which was a great experience. After this, my far more qualified partner (now wife), Emily, got the dream job at Grand Teton NP. At this point I was relegated back to landscaping for the ultra-wealthy in Jackson. Not a bad gig, but also not ideal. So I applied for a program in Ecology and Environmental Management in the UK and was accepted. This time I was moving to northern England to work with Dr. Angela Hodge at the University of York. I completed my Master of Research degree there, but not before making connections in Panama with Dr. Scott Mangan (currently at Wash U) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Which linked me with my next position on Barro Colorado Island, where I assisted in a handful of research projects, honed my microscope skills and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal spore identification. When my eyes couldn’t take it anymore, I happened upon a Ph.D. position with one of my great research heroes, Nancy Collins Johnson. A couple emails and Skype interviews later, and I was packing my bags for Flagstaff, AZ! After a lovely 6 years in Flagstaff, I accepted a postdoc at the University of Miami with Dr. Michelle Afkhami and Dr. Chris Searcy where I’m beginning to explore the role of microbes in shaping landscape-scale plant species distributions, and other abiotic factors that might influence plant-soil microbial feedbacks such as fire or allelopathy in the Florida scrub.
What I can look back on now and see is that many of the decisions I made were not particularly well-planned, and likely came to fruition through a lot of luck, a bit of intelligence, and plenty of perseverance. This is perhaps another reason I love ecology so much, chaos and randomness can produce wonderful things, and that networks are built, but rarely broken.