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Nov 7 16

Scholarship Application for BuildingEnergy Boston Conference

by Marissa M. Donohue
The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) is now accepting scholarship applications for students to attend the BuildingEnergy Boston Conference + Trade Show on March 8th, 2017.
Current voc/tech, college, and graduate students passionate about renewable energy, sustainable building, and high-performance design are encouraged to apply for this scholarship. We are calling upon members of our extended community to help us spread the word to qualified students.
Scholarship recipients will receive:
  • A day-pass to attend BuildingEnergy Boston Conference + Trade Show on Wednesday, March 8, 2017
  • Lunch at a networking event for scholarship recipients and sponsors
  • Recognition at the opening plenary session
  • A one-year membership to NESEA
This scholarship is funded by BE the Future, an initiative aimed at giving promising students an opportunity to engage with leaders in the high performance building sector and related industries. 
Interested students can apply for this scholarship here.
Applications are due November, 30, 2016. If you have any questions about the BE the Future scholarship, please contact
Nov 7 16

Leatherback Sea Turtle Project at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge – Summer Internship Opportunity

by Marissa M. Donohue


The US Fish and Wildlife Service is recruiting six interns to be hired by the Student Conservation Association (SCA) for the 2017 leatherback sea turtle nesting season at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge (SPNWR) is located on the beautiful island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. The leatherback sea turtle project began monitoring and management activities at SPNWR in 1977. The Project has since developed into one of the most comprehensive, long-term sea turtle research and recovery efforts in the world. This work contributed to the creation of Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge as the first refuge in the US Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge System established for the purpose of protecting endangered sea turtles. During the last three decades, there has been a substantial increase in the number of nesting leatherbacks, from less than 20 individuals in the early years to more than 100 in recent years.

Dates: 31 March to 10 July 2017


  • All training will be provided. Perform regular nightly beach patrols of the 3.0-km beach every 45 minutes to intercept all nesting turtles. Patrol from ~7:30 pm until 5:15 am. Tag nesting turtles with external flipper tags and internal PIT tags, collect genetic samples.
  • Track the frequency and distribution of nesting activities by recording date, time and beach location for each activity. Relocate nests deposited in known beach erosion zones to stable beach areas.Excavate emerged nests and collect data on hatch success.
  • Maintain project equipment and vehicles. Maintain and clean communal housing.
  • Perform data entry and error check; summarize data and prepare reports.
  • Participate in outreach activities in the community  and on the refuge as needed.


  • Optimal physical fitness required for walking ~10 miles each night in soft and wet sand, carrying a 25-lb backpack.
  • Turtle experience is not required but you must have the proven ability to work night-time hours in the field.
  • Patience to endure extreme outdoor conditions such as inclement weather (heat, humidity and rain), noxious insects (sand fleas and mosquitoes), and frequent changes in plans.
  • Ability to work independently when required and as part of a team for the entire season.
  • Enthusiasm and a positive attitude as field conditions vary daily and are unpredictable.
  • Ability to live communally in shared housing in close quarters.
  • Local applicants (US Virgin Islanders) are strongly encouraged to apply; regretfully we cannot accommodate any international applicants at this time.

To apply, submit a cover letter detailing how you meet the requirements, include your resume and 3 references (with contact info) to  Deadline for applications is Thursday November 10, 2016.

Benefits: Round trip airfare up to $1,115, $100/week stipend, shared housing, local transportation, worker’s compensation insurance, SCA uniform, and an incredible field experience in a beautiful tropical location are included. Opportunities for independent study are possible.

Nov 7 16

How Kraten Created Her Career

by huebel01

Ariel Kraten is the Director of GoBlu, a Boston based company that specializes in sustainable solutions in the textile industry. In this role, Ariel promotes more conscious decision-making in light of sustainability concerns and global interconnections, as well as business priorities. She started her Sustainability Journey as Peace Corps in Suriname in 2004-2006, where she experienced firsthand what it feels like to have limited access to clean water, and how that impacted the health and wellbeing of her remote Amazon community. Ariel then spent five years working with Big Brothers Big Sisters International, an NGO focused on mentoring, where she was fascinated by the challenge of rolling out a program in over a dozen different countries with different cultures and challenges. She then moved to the Netherlands to work at the sustainable fashion consultancy MADE-BY, most recently as a Senior Consultant, where her focus was on creating support tools for brands and helping them develop and apply the right sustainability strategy in light of environmental challenges. Ariel received a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Nonprofit Leadership/Leadership for Social Change and incorporates a group dynamics perspective into her work.

Hannah Uebele: For students today trying to get into the field you’re working, in would you recommend they follow the same kind of academic path you took?

Ariel Kraten: (laughing) No. I think there are so many different paths to it and my own path was so curvy. I think there are a lot of different ways if what you want to do is work in sustainability, and if you have an industry in mind I think that whether you go the more science-y side or the more humanities side there are skills in all of those different disciplines that are needed. When I was talking about how at GoBlu we have people ranging from finance to chemistry, auditors, researchers, academics, it’s all of these different backgrounds bringing something different. When I think about our group, kind of our smaller group of four, I would say one person was very deliberate of being in this industry and two of us kind of came in quite sideways and the third I would say was kind of in between. So sometimes you don’t know where your studies are going to take you.

Kraten stressed the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and the advantages of understanding multiple and different perspectives.

Kraten: What was interesting for me was that I started in biology, so I was really interested in the science-y side, but I really shifted and went humanities. In the role I have been doing for last few years, oftentimes I’m like the middleman between the scientist types and the non-scientist types, so one of the big challenges that we have is that designers and textile chemists don’t speak the same language. It’s going to be really hard to have a conversation between those two, but they need to share information so I often find myself more like the go-between, because I don’t have the same knowledge as the textile chemists but I can follow along and have a conversation with them. Same with the designers, I don’t have the same perspective that they have but I’m not as far away as some. I feel like it’s so hard to find people who are interested and reasonably proficient in the science side who are still able to draw in people who are not naturally open to that side of things, so I think that’s really good to have both sides.

Uebele: Is there something special that a person must have to become successful in this field of work – is there a secret to your success?

Kraten: I think for getting into this kind of a field it’s just about keeping your eyes open to new opportunities. So when I first started I kind of became fascinated with this connection between social economic development and clean water and the garment textile industry and I found a company that was working on it. They weren’t hiring, so I volunteered – I stuck around until they hired me. So I think just keeping your eyes open to the opportunities and building your own opportunities. In some of these emerging industries like this one the opportunities are huge if you’re willing to figure it out as you go along. You have to not be scared if there’s not a clear path because a lot of the interesting stuff is happening in these newer fields and a lot of these newer fields don’t have a path so yeah its kind of fun.

Uebele: Can you tell me about a moment in your life or a decision that you made that was crucial in getting you to be where you are in your career today?

Kraten: Well one would definitely be doing Peace Corps. I didn’t know where that was going to lead me at all and wouldn’t have expected this connection to water to come out of it, but of course you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know what the challenges are going to be or where you end up. I think another one would be when I found this company that was doing something that I was interested in and volunteered and kind of just decided, ‘I’m going to work here, I’m going to make this happen.’

Uebele: Looking back is there anything you would do differently that you would want students now to be aware of?

Kraten: I never thought about careers when I was in school obviously because I was a classics major (laughing). There are so many careers out there that I had never heard of…there are so many jobs out there and I think back now, if I had known that urban planning was a thing, maybe I would’ve gone into that. There’s just so many things out there. I also think… I stressed so much about my major and I think there are very few majors that really set you on a path, especially in undergrad, so don’t worry about it, do what you like, and usually what you’re good at is what will make you happy later. Almost every opportunity that I’ve had professionally has been through my relationships that I’ve built and I think that it is crucial…where you can build those connections with people who are doing things that are interesting and where you can return the favor later.

Uebele: Anything final advice you have for students wishing to pursue a career similar to yours?

Kraten: It’s so hard because I didn’t ever feel like I was pursuing a career. I think that things are changing a lot, I think about with GoBlu what’s so crazy is we circle the globe between the four of us who are the co-directors. What does that mean for our organization and what does that mean for how we work, when we work, how we balance our work and our lives, and all of these things? Everything is so in flux. One thing I was really grateful for was when I was in the Netherlands, experiencing a different culture’s take on work-life balance. I’m very glad I had that exposure because I think that’s something that we don’t do well here and I think that the only way it’s going to get better is if we start taking a stand. So I would stress that there are different ways to do things culturally and I think that understanding the culture of your organization is really important also.

Oct 31 16

The Power of Optimism and Hope – Conversation with Itzkan, Thidemann, and Codur

by huebel01

Featured: Seth Itzkan, Karl Thidemann, and Anne-Marie Codur

Interviewed by: Hannah Uebele


Seth Itzkan wants you to be optimistic about planet Earth’s environmental future.

In a time where climate change and its severe effects seem to declare doom and gloom constantly on the news, the reason for his positivity isn’t because the Earth isn’t in danger, but because we still have the ability to save it.

As a graduate of the Tufts College of Engineering and the University of Houston Masters of Science Program in Studies of the Future, Itzkan advocates for soil restoration as a climate mitigation solution through the non-profit Soil4Climate which he both Co-founds and Co-directs.

Itzkan, and his fellow Co-founder and Co-director Karl Thidemann, believe in interdisciplinary collaboration and the use of music, poetry, and art to also reach audiences about the issues they advocate for.

“It’s important to have a positive thinking and so to help create positive thinking we wrote a song,” Itzkan said. (

Thidemann also has written poetry about the climate to further advocate through different platforms.

Thidemann explained how he had no idea when he was starting out that his career would’ve ended up the way it has.

“I studied Environmental Chemistry at Wesleyan – I never imaged I was going to be working with farmers,” Thidemann said.

“I had worked at an environmental lab for a number of years, I taught high school and math, I worked at a lab that was mostly testing for hazardous waste, and then later I sold electric cars for ten years. Which again, I had never imagined for the life of me that I would be selling electric cars but through that I ended up giving quite a few talks including here at Tufts,” he said.

Thidemann explained how he learned about carbon in the air through his work with electric cars, but that it wasn’t until he started working with Itzhan that he realized the huge potential for capturing atmospheric carbon in the ground through regenerative land practices.

Thidemann stressed the importance of effective science communication to raise awareness about these practices.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so obvious, why isn’t everyone talking about this?’ So there’s a huge and very important role in science communications,” Thidemann said.

Thidemann also explained how many people from different fields of study and interests can and should come together to work on this issue.

“They all have to, it’s part of the holistic framework, trying to look at the economic, environmental, and social factors to help make decision,” Thidemann said.

Dr. Anne-Marie Codur, a research fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University further emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary research, as displayed by her own career.

“I have a Ph.D from France in development and environmental economics, so it was a very multi-disciplinary Ph.D, and I came here many years ago when I was a post-doc at Harvard, and then this is when I met the team here. I really was looking for economists who were unorthodox, really out of the box and looking at the connection with environmental issues and social issues. I was also interested in being really involved in civil society, so for many years I left academia to be in a nonprofit organization which I cofounded about education for peace. I also gave programs on environmental policies and then I came back to academia. So now I am acutally only part time at GDAE, and I’m also a climate activist,” Codur said.

Codur explained how its hard to give career advice to current students since a lot of life is uncontrollable and up to luck, but she emphasized that that students need to have passion for what they pursue in order to be successful.

“I didn’t really have a career plan, I really followed my heart. In a way you have to be open for surprises, you cannot control life. That’s the main idea I would give to students, don’t think you can control (life) from now on,” Codur said.

“(As for career advice) you really need to feel that this is a passion, it’s something that you really want to contribute to. Don’t do it for the wrong motivations. Don’t do it for the fame or the power or the money or any of that because it will fail. If you do it for the passion you might not succeed but you will be in for an amazing ride and you will learn so much and you will grow so much,” Codur said.

Codur, like Itzkan and Thidemann, is also a proponent for using the arts to communicate these issues to the public.

“I’m an artist, I’m also a singer, so I like the fact that they wrote a song about that. I really belive in that intersection and I think that is what we need to do,” Codur said.

Codur, like Itzkan, described how she is very optimistic and hopeful for the future, and that current students, and in fact anyone, should not be discouraged and must continue to have hope.

“There is tremendous hope, because yes there are crises everywhere, yes everything is going to to collapse, but it’s a good thing actually, we can recreate the whole human adventure. How about that for a start?” Codur said.

Oct 24 16

Career Advice: Dr. Thomas French

by huebel01

Dr. Thomas French gets to work with “natural history of all forms” and as the Assistant Director of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, French specializes in protecting organisms most at risk of extinction. Having worked in this position for 33 years, French plans to retire in two years and offered up advice for those looking to fill his shoes. French attributes a lot of his success to luck, but after being able to sit down with him to talk about his accomplishments of being a zoologist, author of numerous scientific papers, and member of various scientific committees, it’s not hard to tell that having a positive attitude and staying true to what he loves have contributed greatly to his success.

Hannah Uebele: Can you tell me how you got interested in this career and how you got started?

Thomas French: I grew up interested in the outdoors and animals from as long back as I can remember and so I automatically went into biology programs in college. I had kind of tunnel vision for wildlife issues and so I went through Georgia State University for a bachelor’s (B.S. in Biology), Auburn University for a master’s (M.S. in Zoology), Indiana University for a a Ph.D, (in Ecology and Systematics), and Cornell for a post doc, and then started looking for work.

French explained how he was faced with the same problem that many people have when finishing up so much schooling: deciding whether to go into academia or fieldwork. He explained how in hindsight he’s fortunate that a career in academia didn’t work out, since it led him to the career he has today.

French: It was a classic dichotomy, teaching vs something in the field. My first big interview was a teaching faculty position and I look back and think, thank God I failed it (laughing). Then I got into the Nature Conservancy actually… and I had already worked for National Audubon in the summers and so Nature Conservancy was my first job to be essentially a zoologist, all vertebrate animals and natural history and that’s what I was good at anyway. I worked there for two years before this (current) job came up. This job never existed before it came up, I’m the first person to be in this position, to run the state’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and I’ve been here 33 years. The part I love about it is the diversity. Natural history of all forms, and so we deal with rare mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, plants and invertebrates. Then we get into the stuff that’s not so fun with the regulatory reviews and a lot of GIS stuff that is over my head, and a lot of politics and legislation which is not particularly fun for me. (Also) of course a lot of personnel issues, because I have 29 staff. We have 30 counting myself so we’re a big program particularly the size state we are, but we are one of the most progressive states in the North East as well so it’s very rewarding, we’ve got good staff and we accomplish a lot.

Uebele: You spoke about what you majored in and got advanced degrees in – would you recommend that students trying to emulate your career do the same?

French: Well the question always is graduate school or no graduate school and it depends on what you want to do. If you want to work in academia you have to have a Ph.D pretty much, but often times a Ph.D is almost an impediment…and so I don’t necessarily push for people to get graduate degrees. I usually think a master’s is a good level to go if you’re working or want to work for an agency like ours. We clearly do give a preference for someone with a master’s over just a BS but that’s just to kind of get your foot in the door, then you’ve got to do an interview and impress us. I’ve interviewed and hired a lot of people and I think the thing that people who come in and apply for us fail (to do) most often is they’re not doing their homework.

French compared going in for an interview like taking an exam – you have to do your homework beforehand.

French: You should know about the organization and I interview a scary number of people selected out of a big pool that come in and they haven’t looked up anything about us, they don’t know anything about us in particular. Others of course have really done their homework and it shows, so somebody looking for work take it as an example, do your homework.

Uebele: Is there something special that a person must have to become successful in this field of work or, in other words, is there a secret to your success?

French: Well part of it with mine is getting in on the ground floor because I’ve kept (this career) for 30 years (laughing). By the way I’m (retiring) in 2 years, so go for it. Yeah, being in the right place at the right time, a lot of it is dumb luck. There’s a lot of jobs out there but some of the best ones are filled for long stretches of time… so a lot of it is unfortunately out of people’s control. My daughter just finished a master’s degree and she’s looking for work and I’m trying to help her with the same thoughts. Nowadays it’s just a lot more difficult I think it was when I was doing it, a lot of competition. Part of it is that you need to follow your heart, but part of you needs to strategize and think, ‘Okay once I follow my heart what am I going to do with what I’ve got? Can I get work?’

French explained how in his case he was able to follow his heart but in the case of his daughter and new graduates today, it’s much harder to do so and be able to support yourself.

Uebele: Can you tell me about a moment in your life, or a decision that you made in your life, that was crucial in getting you to be where you are in your career today?

French: Well I actually had big breaks by mentors. I mean literally my first big break was entering the science fair in the 6th grade and my music teacher being active in the local bird club and saying I needed to start going (birding). So I had a mentor take me under her wing in 6th grade and then started taking me places I could never have gotten – I’m from Georgia so the Okefenokee Swamp and Jekyll Island and places I could never have gone. Then I had other mentors along the way so that’s important. I had some (other) lucky breaks – I naively applied for some things and didn’t realize what an underdog I was and got them anyway so I got lucky.

Uebele: Looking back is there anything you would do differently that you would want students now to be aware of?

French: I wouldn’t, I mean I grew up knowing the kind of field I wanted to be in when I was in elementary school. But there are a lot of directions I could have taken, there’s no one right or wrong way.

French explained how you have to make the best of what life hands you in whichever way it leads you.

Life is just a lot of strange decisions and there’s no right or wrong way to live it, it’s a lot of dumb luck (laughing). But you need to be able to try to recognize the opportunities and be prepared for them. So in my field I would say a master’s is probably the minimum requirement and doing your homework before interviews is the minimum requirement, and frankly do what you have personal interest in. I have 29 staff and I can see which ones are doing what they enjoy as a career versus which ones have a job and it really makes a difference, and I’m sure it makes a difference for their personal enrichment and enjoyment too. Sometimes I can’t separate the job from the hobbies.

Uebele: Any final advice you have for students wishing to pursue a career similar to yours?

French: Working in the environment is both rewarding and frustrating and it’s so much driven by people’s personal background and attitudes. Frankly one of the things that scares me a little bit is that we’ve gotten so removed from the farms and the land that our urban population doesn’t appreciate and certainly does not understand nature very well. We’re growing up in a period now where the average person has very little experience with the outdoors and our kids are spending time indoors with computer games, and I was out walking the stream and catching frogs. And in that case my father literally when I was in college sat me down and said, ‘You’ve got to stop wasting your time doing that. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make a living.’ But I didn’t listen.

Oct 18 16

Development and Administrative Coordinator

by Marissa M. Donohue

Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) is seeking a Development and
Administrative Coordinator who will use his or her passion for a more just
society, along with robust abilities in database management, donor
relations, office management and organizational administration, to amplify the impact
of our work.

Organization Description: SCLT improves health, economic security and the
environment in Rhode Island by providing thousands of families with access
to land, resources, and education to grow food.  We support a network of 50
community gardens and 17 sustainable farms in Rhode Island.  We offer
nutrition, food preparation and gardening workshops for adults; youth
employment and environmental education; beginning farmer support and
training; and advocacy for sustainable agriculture.

Position Description: The Development and Administrative Coordinator works
closely with the Executive Director and Development Director.  This person
is responsible for providing administrative support for all fundraising
appeals and events.  He or she is also responsible for maintaining appropriate
communications with donors, maintaining all organizational records and
filings as well as an efficient, welcoming office environment.

Qualifications: Education – College degree is preferred.  Including training
in word processing, Microsoft Excel and Word, database management, document
formatting, business/office practices; and or Experience ­ which may have been
gained through considerable employment in a fast-paced office, which included
complex clerical duties and handling of confidential information and
administrative details. Exceptional organizational, customer service and
problem solving skills required. Proficiency in Excel, Word, email, and
databases required.  SCLT uses Donor Pro.

Job Duties:
€ Produce donor letters for fundraising appeals
€ Maintain database of all donations and provide reports to the Development
€ Develop and maintain mailing lists for fundraising appeals, newsletter and
newsletter distribution
€ Work with Development Director to produce and staff fundraising and
membership events
€ Manage, record and process donor gifts/payments including memberships and
recurring donations
€ Maintain all required insurance and insurance schedule
€ Attend meetings of the Board of Directors and prepare and circulate minutes
€ Prepare and deliver Board of Directors Meeting Materials
€ Maintain all organizational records including but not limited to
community gardener contracts, independent contractor filings, calendar of
administrative requirements, banking records
€ Manage maintenance of office equipment and supplies including computers,
copier, network, phone system
€ Manage office cleaning contract
€ Receive all requests for support from internal and external parties in a
professional, upbeat manner and provide the highest levels of customer service
€ Manage multiple assignments simultaneously while meeting deadlines
€ Other duties as assigned

Schedule is 40 hours per week.  Some evening and weekend work is required.
Minority candidates are strongly encouraged.   Spanish speaking candidates are
strongly encouraged.  Salary is $38,000-$45,000 based on experience and
qualifications.  SCLT offers medical and dental insurance and a generous
paid time off program.  This position is open for immediate hire.  SCLT is an
equal opportunity employer.

Interested candidates should submit a resume and cover letter to Margaret
DeVos, Executive Director at  Please indicate
“Development and Administrative Coordinator” in the subject line of the
Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.  Projected
start date is November 28, 2016

Oct 18 16

Career Advice: Why Happiness is Greater Than Power, According to William Powers

by Marissa M. Donohue

Why Happiness is Greater Than Power, According to William Powers

Interviewed by Hannah Uebele

William D. Powers is a Senior Fellow with the World Policy Institute, an Adjunct Professor with NYU’s Center for Global Affairs and award-winning author. He has worked for two decades in development aid and conservation in Latin America, Africa, and North America. From 2002 to 2004 he managed the community components of a project in the Bolivian Amazon that won a 2003 prize for environmental innovation from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He has published five books, and his essays and commentaries on global issues have appeared in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune and on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. Powers has worked at the World Bank and holds international relations degrees from Brown and Georgetown.


Q: What did you major in?

A: International Relations and I concentrated in International Development and Environmental Studies. And so, it was blending in a cross-disciplinary way science around climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, ocean issues and other topics, and also with policy and [asking] how do you address this through international policies.


Q: Is there something special that a person must have to actually become successful in this field of work, is there a secret to your success?

A: The thing about the word ‘successful’ is, what does that really mean? For example, I know some friends who are US trained doctors who work in local clinics in Bolivia at a very low salary and they’re just completely happy and successful in the sense that they’re serving all of these people. But you never hear of them or they’re not publishing anything anywhere, so I just think it’s a very important point to make when you’re thinking about careers and all that, to get out of this US tunnel vision about ‘never stop improving’, ‘more is always better’. Ambition in some ways can be a positive thing, it gets you going, but after a certain point its negative because it forces you into sometimes lowering self-esteem due to constant comparisons…


Q: Can you tell me about a moment in your life that was crucial in getting you to be where you are in your career today?

A: One of the big turning points was in 2004 when I had submitted my first book manuscripts for publication. My AP high school English teacher read it and she said ‘Your manuscript is both good and original, but the parts that are good are not original and the parts that are original are not good.’ Not a very good comment, but I kind of bounced back from that, resubmitted it, and suddenly had many publishers competing to publish my book and I got a really good advance and so I was able to just kind of leave the full-time work world and just become like a writer in some ways.

For me that was the biggest thing because there’s a way to be totally free from having to work 50 weeks a year and having to be tethered to one employer. A certain amount of independence is huge and so at that point I became basically like a consultant. So I would consult on projects in West Africa or Latin America like [with] IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) or different groups, and then I was writing the rest of the time. So it was this great balance between writing books and articles and then also you know working.

What I would say for students …is if you can get like maybe the first ten years invested in really building your skill set and then you can kind of de-tether then it’s like everything changes, because since 2007 I haven’t worked a full time job at all. [At] World Policy Institute I have projects that I manage but I’m not like I have to go to the office every day and the same thing with NYU.


Q: Any advice you have for students?

A: Sometimes I wonder if a certain amount of de-professionalization is necessary, because we’re so highly trained to be on a certain track. Even if you’re not on a law or medical track, you’re still on some sort of a track.

A really good book that I would recommend to students is, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. It’s what really changed my whole approach to money and finances when I was about your age. I cut up my credit cards when I was 22 after college and I paid off all my loans after grad school.  I just had this approach of no debt. The other thing is paying yourself first, always pay the first 20% out of any money you get to a savings account or some sort of investment for yourself that builds up over time and then you have FI, financial independence. I’m not tied to any party line at all, like I’m not trying to get tenure, so it’s amazing the amount of freedom it gives you.

Oct 10 16

Orienting Your Future According to Orians

by Marissa M. Donohue

Orienting Your Future According to Orians 

By Hannah Uebele 

If you’re an aspiring biologist, it’s hard not to want to aim high to be someone like Professor Colin Orians.

As a leader in his field, Orians has done extensive research studying the interactions between the plant and insect worlds, including topics such as how plants defend themselves from hungry pests. His work has been widely published in such places as Ecological Entomology to Oecologia.

When creating research teams which combine disciplines across many different fields, Orians realizes the importance of working with different perspectives to solve pressing questions. In addition to being a successful scientist, Orians is also a respected professor at Tufts in the Biology department and is the Director of Tufts’ Environmental Studies Program.

So how does one go from being an undergraduate Biology major, to become the Director of an entire academic program at a world-renowned university?

While Orians says there isn’t a secret to his success, he did explain how being open to different ideas and new directions in his research has definitely helped him.

“I’ve always been open to new opportunities…if you try to make your data fit your preconceived notions, I don’t think you’ll be very successful. If you have some hypotheses that you’re testing and you’re willing to reject them, and as you reject them you get excited about the alternatives, that I think is the key in the sciences anyway,” Orians said.

Orians explained that the best thing in his career is the discovery aspect of research and being able to collaborate with students. “Both of those are really important to me, it’s the research, the teaching, and the sort of training the next generation of potential scientists,” Orians said.

Orians did explain however that students pursuing a career in science or academia do need to be aware of some of the harder parts about the career. “The truth is, when you go into a career in research you don’t always see immediate results, so if you’re a person who needs immediate results it may not be the career for you, because it takes a long time to collect the data.”

Orians also mentioned that aspiring professors need to have some sort of idea about how they will go about funding their research and attracting the interest of grant reviewers. “That’s probably the most challenging part of today’s scientific world, getting funding for your research, because funding rates are kind of low,” Orians said.

Orians majored in Biology at Earlham College and earned his Ph.D in Entomology at The Pennsylvania State University, but he said there isn’t a single correct path to take for students wanting to emulate his career. He explained how there are many different ways to get involved in scientific matters even if someone didn’t start out as a scientist.

“There are economists that work on these issues as well, so I wouldn’t say that there is a discipline that is more important than another, but I would say that you do need to have disciplinary grounding,” he said.

He further explained how interdisciplinary research has proven to be very advantageous in his research, but that people need to be sufficiently strong in their respective fields in order to then be able to come together to collaborate.

“If I were too interdisciplinary where I was sort of a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none, I think that’s a much more difficult place to be if you’re interested in research and a career in academia. You want to have disciplinary grounding that then you can feed into the interdisciplinary world,” he explained.

Orians said that students need not follow the path that they think will make them most successful, but that they should become involved in something that fully and truly interests them.

“I think that students have to follow whatever their passion is…I have no allusions that every one of my students should follow my career, I want them to follow the career that they’re most interested in. Maybe that takes them into the sort of policy realm, maybe it takes them into the much more applied medical world, so I just want them to follow their own interests,” he said.

Orians advised students to connect with faculty and get experience researching with them. “If a student wants to get involved in research, it’s good to reach out to faculty and explore it, and don’t get disillusioned if you don’t get an email back right away, try again,” he said.

So send those emails, follow your unique interests, be open to working with a range of different ideas, and you’ll be on your way to becoming the next director of an academic program at a distinguished university.

Oct 3 16

How to be The Mann

by Sara Gomez Garcia

How to be The Mann

By Hannah Uebele


Charles C. Mann has had quite the career – if being a New York Times best-selling author wasn’t enough, he’s also been featured in numerous respected publications such as National Geographic, and even had a stint as a writer for HBO and Law & Order.

Mann has written many different things for many different publications, but specializes on topics of science. In a time when effective science journalism and communication is more important than ever, I had the pleasure to learn about how Mann found his passion for science writing and to hear his advice for current students hoping to emulate his eminent career.

How does a Mathematics major from Amherst College become a contributor to the New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and a correspondent for Science magazine? Well it all started when Mann was first introduced to the environmental movement happening during his childhood.

“The new environmental movement, which started in the 60s and 70s, was actually all around me as I grew up. I grew up in a small town in Washington and there’s a tremendous number of environmental battles, and I could see them from where I lived,” Mann said.

When Mann took time after college to travel the world, he was astounded by the environmental degradation he encountered.

“I ended up living in Rome for two years and there the environmental movement hadn’t really taken hold, and I was horrified by the pollution around me in Rome,” he said.

Mann explained how that when he tried to talk to Europeans about this issue, he was met with indifference and lack of awareness, describing that he felt many of the citizens were clueless about the deterioration occurring to the environment around them.

Mann came back from Europe pursuing a career in science journalism since he always liked to write. He had studied mathematics but felt that continuing on this path, “just didn’t sound right to me for what I wanted to do.”

Mann described how he promptly found journalism to be a pleasure, as he was able to talk to a variety of people, while constantly learning new things.

Through his work he began to be interested and surprised to learn about the science behind the Columbian Exchange, which eventually led him to write his award winning book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, a book which exemplifies the interconnectedness of science and the humanities.

Mann explained that through his research leading up to the book, he was shocked to find that much of what he had been taught in grade school about history was incorrect.

“I thought, wow, all the stuff that I believe, and some of it which I was taught, really amounts to an erasure of culture,” he said.

Mann officially realized he had a responsibility to write something when he saw what his children were learning.

“It really happened when my kids started going to school and they were learning the same stuff I learned which was wrong and outdated in the 1970s and was really really outdated now,” he said.

Mann realized that people had a large unawareness about the pre-Columbian world and so he sought to bring this matter to light through his book by using new findings in scientific research.

Mann’s book showed that using science and the humanities together can help to answer some important questions and bring forth conversation about how and what society teaches and chooses to emphasize.

Mann explained that giving advice to students aspiring for a similar career is challenging since conditions are so different.

“The student debt and so forth are just so unforgiving [for students today] that I think, oh God it’s so tough for you guys,” he said.

As for the secret to his success, Mann explained how a lot of it is just about being in the business long enough and gaining experience and connections.

“Unknowingly I was in a prime time [in journalism],” Mann said, explaining how there were many opportunities for journalists when he was starting out, quite different from today’s circumstances.

The good thing about today’s day and age according to Mann is that “it’s easier than ever now to get published.” Unfortunately, he added that, “what’s not easy to do is get paid.”

Mann stressed the importance of purely just going out there and trying, for those hoping to have a career similar to his, but that it depends on the person’s situation.

“My situation was fortunate. I came from a middle-class family…I had a place to go if I failed, but not everybody has that,” Mann said.

Mann said that he knew he had a duty to pursue what he loved after seeing poverty during his travels.

“After I went to Africa I thought, ‘Man, these people I’m meeting are broke, their lives are really constrained.’ I’m fortunate, tremendously fortunate by comparison. I would think they would think I was an utter shmuck if I didn’t at least try to do something that made me happy. And so that was important in my life, that I’ve been given these advantages, so I should at least try. I would say try, you know, if you’re in a situation where you know if you fail you won’t be destitute, then you should try. For me it’s better to try and fail than not to try.”

So here’s to trying.

Oct 1 16

Field Technician – University of California, Irvine

by Marissa M. Donohue

Title:  Field Technician

Location:  University of California, Irvine; Center for Environmental Biology

Salary:  Commensurate with experience

Duration:  1 year, possible extension

Brief Description of Duties:

The Center for Environmental Biology (CEB) at the University of California, Irvine is seeking outstanding applicants for the position of Field Technician to work with CEB staff to supervise student interns in the collection of field data for ecological research projects. The successful candidate will be able to identify the majority of plant species found in Orange County and will work as part of a team of researchers and land managers to conduct vegetation and environmental monitoring and to set up field experiments to create best management practices for future restoration and conservation efforts. The person hired will work closely with CEB director Dr. Travis Huxman, assistant director Dr. Sarah Kimball, and coordinate with other CEB team members. The position is funded in cooperation with the Nature Reserve of Orange County which manages the environmental resources within the Orange County Central-Coastal Natural Community Conservation Plan.

The successful candidate will be expected to:

  • Generate data sheets and supervise the accurate collection of ecological data;
  • Use GPS units to locate field transects;
  • Train and supervise undergraduate student interns in the collection of ecological data;
  • Accurately identify native plants at all stages of development;
  • Work with partner organizations to collaboratively design experiments;
  • Submit requests to access land;
  • Supervise data entry and storage;
  • Maintain CEB websites, including the OC ecological data portal and eScholarship sites

 About the CEB:

The mission of the Center for Environmental Biology is to link academic research with ecosystem management and stewardship of natural resources, and to educate the next generation of environmental biologists and stewards. We provide (1) a forum for information exchange within the campus community, (2) a recognized core of expertise visible through conferences, workshops, websites, and publications, (3) coordinated research facilities and infrastructure that serves a community of researchers, educators, and decision makers, and (4) linkages between UCI and external agencies and organizations that have an immediate need for research and students trained in environmental biology. It is increasingly challenging to manage essential resources in response to multiple stresses and environmental disturbances such as climate change, pollution, land use change, and exotic species invasions. New advances in biological research are providing methods to better understand how organisms and ecosystems influence the environment and how they respond to environmental change. Working in partnership with ecosystem and resource managers, UC Irvine faculty are collaborating to conduct solutions-oriented research in environmental biology, and train the next generation of stewards of biological resources.

Minimum qualifications:

  • B.S. in botany, ecology, environmental science, or a related field;
  • Strong plant identification skills;
  • Extensive field experience;
  • Extensive data collection, data entry, and data storage experience;
  • Experience with generating data sheets and entering data in Excel;
  • Experience using GPS units to locate study sites;
  • Ability to work effectively on multiple concurrent projects;
  • Excellent communication skills.

 Preferred Qualifications:

  • Teaching experience;
  • Experience supervising crews in the field;
  • Experience in GIS and geospatial analysis;
  • Experience in developing and completing scholarly research projects;
  • Experience working with collaborators from diverse backgrounds and capacity to engage with interdisciplinary teams.
  • Experience using WordPress

Anticipated Start Date:  October 25, 2016

Application Deadline:  Although we will accept applications until the position is filled, interested candidates should submit their materials by Oct. 10, 2016 to ensure optimal consideration.  To apply, please submit your cover letter to Sarah Kimball ( and upload a cover letter, CV, and contact information for three references at