Student Profile: Eric

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Photograph of EricMajor: Animal Ecology
Focus Area: Wildlife

Engineer turned Wildlife Biologist
Eric thought he had it all figured out. He would begin his adventure at Iowa State as an engineering student. But at an engineering program the summer before he came to Iowa State Eric saw himself taking a different path.

“I found myself reading outdoor magazines while everyone else was working with computer programs or talking about the strength limits of building materials. I realized that all the money in the world wasn’t going to make a difference if I couldn’t work outside studying the ecosystems and wildlife that really fascinate me.”

Eric became an Animal Ecology student in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management (NREM) at Iowa State.

Wildlife Biologist in the Making
As part of his adventure at Iowa State, Eric has partnered with Dr. Sue Fairbanks, professor of wildlife behavior and population ecology, to carry out jackrabbit research. Through the use of radio telemetry equipment, Eric is able to follow the seasonal habitat associations of a jackrabbit population just west of Ames. He hopes his research will help Iowans understand the habitat needs of white-tailed jackrabbits, a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Iowa.

Eric will be presenting his research at the Iowa State Capitol this spring and he hopes to present his findings at several other conferences, including one in Alaska!

Experiences in NREM
Eric has gained a wide variety of work experience within NREM.

“My freshman year I worked in Dr. Dick Schultz’s lab. We were looking at streams, and the effects of buffer strips on water quality, erosion, and greenhouse gases. My sophomore year I worked on a project on Spirit Lake. We were studying how various vegetative compositions of restored prairies attracted different species of grassland birds. This summer I am going to continue my work on jackrabbits, as well as helping a graduate student analyze the genetic connectivity of regional populations of white-tailed jackrabbits. I used to think I was only interested in mammals, but NREM really helps you to appreciate every aspect of the natural world.”

Future Plans
“I hope to have my jackrabbit research published in the near future. Looking further ahead I plan to earn my Masters in population ecology or biogeography and then my Ph.D. I want to become a professor, both teaching and doing research. I’m interested in researching fox species next.”

What Future Students Should Know about NREM
“Get to know the professors in NREM. They are incredibly friendly, always willing to talk business or just sit and chat, and they have awesome connections in this field. The best part of the NREM department is that it’s like a big family. You know the people in your classes and it’s a nice blend of the social and the academic parts of student life. I also really enjoy my NREM classes, and even the homework isn’t too bad because I can apply the knowledge right away identifying species or evaluating ecosystem characteristics and quality.”

Involvement on campus
Fisheries and Wildlife Biology Club
Camping, snow tubing, animal track identification, practicing with field equipment

Favorite class so far
So many good ones to pick from, but if I had to decide: Watershed Management with Dr. Dick Schultz and Ornithology with Dr. Steve Dinsmore would be my favorites so far.