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My thoughts on grad students………….

Being a grad student is a gift, in the sense that you get paid to work on a topic you have chosen.  In a world where most people must endure physical hardship simply to eat and stay warm, it is a luxury to get paid for intellectual pursuits.  There are few things as wonderful as getting paid to describe, understand, and conserve the ecological systems around us.  I was fortunate to work with some outstanding peers and advisors in grad school.  I would not trade my experiences as a grad student for anything and feel gratitude toward those who made it so much fun. 

I look for students who are hard-working, self-motivated and passionate about their academic pursuits.  You must be tenacious in order to successfully complete a graduate degree program.  As a graduate student, you can expect to write grant proposals and papers, make presentations at professional conferences, put long hours in the lab or field, and have a whole lot of fun.  It simply is not a 9 to 5 job.  You must make some personal sacrifices in order to make intellectual contributions to ecology, evolution, and conservation.  Grad school will be a grind at times, but that is true of most things worth doing. 

My role as an advisor is to provide you with an environment that is conducive to your intellectual and personal growth.  I will help you to pursue funding, to ask important questions, and to figure out the best ways to answer them.  In addition, I will help you find your way toward a rewarding career after school.  In exchange, I expect you to have intense intellectual curiosity and passion for your work and to come to the lab everyday enthusiastic about pushing back the boundaries of science.  My job is to help you make your research project better. 

My primary academic appointment is at the University of Alaska Southeast.  However, I take grad students through my joint appointments at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the Institute of Arctic Biology.   If you are interested in ecology, evolution, and conservation and want to live in a gorgeous, wet place while you pursue your intellectual interests, please contact me (  I am always looking for motivated, creative students.

I also suggest that you read these contributions from three esteemed ecologists on being a grad student.

John ThompsonSteven Stearns and Ray Huey


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