Early Career Ecologist Profile: Meet Kristin Marshall

Hello, dear readers.  I’m the other Kristin, and here’s my story.

I’ve been a bit of a hop, skip, and jumper when it comes to my research interests and places I call home.  I’m a native North Dakotan, but I grew up all over the Midwest. I went to the east coast for college, and got a BA in Marine Biology from Boston University.  Then, I swapped coasts to do a master’s in Aquatic and Fishery Science at University of Washington. Naturally, I followed that up with a terrestrial ecology PhD at Colorado State, working on willows and trophic cascades in Yellowstone. And of course, the logical next step was to hop back in the water with a National Research Council (NRC) post-doc with NOAA Fisheries at the Northwest Fishery Science Center in Seattle studying fisheries and ecosystem implications of hypoxia and ocean acidification in the California Current. Still with me?

Depending on the day (or the job for which I’m applying), my ecological adjectives might include: community, spatial, food web, ecosystem, landscape, riparian, but almost always I use the word quantitative.  Not because I’m trying to impress you, but because I’m a nerd who really likes numbers. I devoted a lot of my energy as a graduate student to developing a toolbox of quantitative (there it is again!) approaches to extract understanding from complex ecological systems, and I’ve followed my instincts to find interesting questions and ecosystems in which to apply them. So far, I’ve found that broad training, overcoming a fear of equations, working hard, and being personable (thanks, Midwestern upbringing) has been a good strategy to keep me employed and get me to beautiful outdoor locations.

What can you expect to hear from me on this blog?

On the science side, I’ll probably write something soon about Yellowstone, because I love a good controversy (despite my deep-seated need to avoid conflict, thanks again, Midwest). Humans and wolves continue to be at odds across the West, as evidenced by recent events in my current home state of Washington. Not to mention ongoing arguments in the scientific literature about whether wolves in Yellowstone have led to increased plant growth by reducing elk herbivory.  New studies continue to emerge showing evidence for, and against trophic cascades in Yellowstone. This is impressive to me because we’re 17 years out from when wolves were reintroduced, and we definitely don’t have it all figured out.

I’m also really interested in the behind the scenes aspects of being an ecologist. How do people develop careers in ecology, and how this has changed through time and with economic circumstances? This is particularly applicable to me because I’m a post-doc thinking about the future in a tough job market.  What I know right now is that it’s not always easy, despite all the beautiful photos we post of landscapes and study species that might suggest otherwise. But, I also know that most things worth doing require sacrifices. How do the successful among us make our careers happen?  What motivates us to push through the dip, and when do we give up?  I’ll share my experiences, solicit others’, and write about what I’ve read on this topic.

I’m sure that’s plenty to keep me busy for a while.  In the meantime, I look forward to getting to know you all.

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