Alex Miller, BS ’10 Natural Resources

Alex MillerDegree: B.S. Natural Resources w/ Minor in Geology (2010)

What is your current position?
Masters student in Geophysics at Boise State University

What was your first job out of college?
Geophysics Field Technician at the ‘Institute of Earth Science and Engineering’ in Auckland, NZ.

Alex - Guatemala

Seismic and video deployment on Santiaguito Volcano, Guatemala, 2009, as a study abroad trip for which Alex received a travel scholarship.

What attracted you to your chosen major/profession?
An eclectic look at multiple scientific disciplines.

How has your education at NC State affected your career and/or personal life?
NCSU gave me the opportunity to do what is possibly the greatest challenge for any college student — discover and begin down a successful and interesting career path.  In giving students the opportunity to mold their studies and classes, it is possible to evolve curriculum to something that is truly suited for the individual.

What is your fondest or funniest memory of school?
That is way too hard and there are way too many to answer!  The first amazing, and also average, memory that comes to mind is talking to Dr. Blank, my advisor, about scholarship opportunities for a scientific expedition to Guatemala.  This trip was organized outside of NCSU and yet funding was still granted for my travels.  Why, you ask? — NCSU & CNR, truly look for their students to succeed by any means within or outside of the university walls.  Once the trip was over, I gave a short presentation to faculty and students on our travels, experiences and results.  As a side note, this trip offered my first work experience with Dr. Jeff Johnson who is my advisor now at Boise State. The whole process was not only refreshing but encouraging!

alex_miller2

Electromagnetic field deployment in New Zealand, 2011

Did you have one class that was particularly tough?
Dendrology.  Give me inverse problems, not leaves!

What were some of your biggest challenges in college?
Balancing social life with scholastics.

What is a typical day at your job like?
I’ll give you an insight to my work in New Zealand – My work varied greatly depending if I was in the field or in the office.

Field work included installing, maintaining and rudimentary data analysis of geophysical equipment.  Such equipment included seismometers, Magneto Telluric gear (magnetic coils, electrodes, data acquisition systems, etc…) and temperature gauges.  The work is very labor intensive and involved a lot of hiking and digging holes.  The locations were remote and international including: South/North Islands of New Zealand, Outback Australia, Rwanda (near the Congo border) and San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.

While in the office, my responsibilities included more data analysis.  This mostly was picking phase arrivals or earthquake data, or seismograms, writing reports for commercial projects, packing/cleaning gear etc… Another responsibility I assumed and became very proficient in was instrument assembly.  IESE built custom seismometers.  Our engineers machined raw materials to create unique seismometers which we sold all over the world.  My job soon involved assembling these machine components into a complete ‘Sonde.’  This process involved a lot of wiring/soldering, welding and engineering.

alex_miller3

Alex as a participant in the Tough Guy and Girl Challenge, team SPCA Auckland, 2013

What advice do you have for current students?

  1. Don’t waste a second
  2. Party on Fridays and Saturdays, the rest is for working
  3. Talk to you advisor every month.  There is so much stuff going on that you may not know about – but your advisor does.  Knock on the door and say, “Hey Dr. Blank, what do you have for me?  Give me something cool to do!”  That is why they are there, and chances are that the connections you make in these activities will get you a job before anything else!

Note from Dr. Gary Blank, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Programs:   I like to tell incoming undergraduate students about Alex’s story, because he is a great example of how personal initiative combined with the flexibility of the Natural Resources curriculum can create opportunities for tailor-making a program to meet an individual’s interests.

Joseph P. DiModica II, BS ’85 Forestry

Joseph P. DiModica

Degree: B.S. Forestry (1985)

Most recent position: Range Technician, Fire Lookout, for the US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, in Ashland, Montana (June 3- Sept. 14, 2013)

What was your first job out of college?
US Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station (now called Northern Research Station), Forest Inventory & Analysis. First assignment at Morehead, Kentucky.

What attracted you to forestry?
I visited the Biltmore-Schenck Forest Ranger School on what is now the Pisgah National Forest at the age of 12.

How has your education at NC State affected your career and/or personal life?
I could not have developed into the Forester I am today, if it was not for NC State. I became a more complete person and I am more personable.

Did you have one class that was particularly tough?
Dr. Maurice Ferrier’s ENT 301 (Lecture and Summer Camp). He also had a strict dress code for lecture. Men wore slacks, dress shirts and ties. Women’s wardrobe was a dress, no high heels, and limited cosmetics. I felt like I was at Harvard Law School.

What have been some of your biggest professional challenges?
Having to endure a long series of seasonal positions just to get experience.

What has been your greatest professional reward so far?
Achieving Society of American Foresters (SAF) Forester Registration in 1994.Joseph with the BIA Fire Prevention Trailer

What is a “typical” day at work like for you?
It’s tough keeping the forest landowners abreast of the latest research. Last summer (2012), I was in a seasonal position with Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Ada, Oklahoma. I was involved with Wildfire Prevention Outreach for the members of the Chickasaw Nation. I performed PowerPoint presentations for neighborhood groups and Home Inspections for a home’s survivability.

What advice do you have for current students and recent graduates?
Never, ever give up! My goal is to finish out my career with the US Forest Service, so if you are also interested in doing that, you must keep searching the USAJOBS website at www.usajobs.gov. Keep applying and know that you may need to be prepared to accept a seasonal position to get experience.

Editor’s note: We hope that all current students and alumni will also check our department’s online Jobs Board at www.cnr.ncsu.edu/fer/career_services/jobs/ for other opportunities.

 

Cindy Carr, BS ’00 NR-Ecosystem Assessment, MR ’10 Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences

CindyCarrDegrees:
B.S Natural Resources-Ecosystem Assessment (2000)
M.R. Fisheries & Wildlife Science (2010)
M. Public Administration (expected 2012)

Current Position:
Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

What was your first job out of college?
Field Biologist, Arcadis

While working as a hazardous waste sampling program manager at an environmental engineering firm outside Washington DC, I met several field biologists responsible for stream, wetland, and wildlife habitat work.  Until then, I didn’t know there were careers focused on these areas of the natural environment. 

Why are you willing to serve on the Advancement Council?
I did not have access to very good education or career advice when I graduated from high school so when I went to college for my first undergraduate degree I changed majors several times before getting a generic business degree. I think it’s especially important for female students to know there are jobs women can enjoy in natural resources because it often turns out they don’t know of any women working in that field. I would be willing to talk to any female students interested in a career in a natural resources field (forestry, wildlife, natural resources, etc.)

How has your education at NC State affected your career and/or personal life?
I changed career paths in the middle of my life.  To do it, I returned to school to get a B.S. degree in Natural Resources – Ecosystem Assessment at what was then NC State’s College of Forest Resource.  Even though I’m working full-time now, in recent years I returned to NCSU for a dual Masters program and recently graduated with a Masters degree in my field and am continuing work toward a second Masters degree.

What is your fondest or funniest memory of school?
I was a non-traditional, adult student and was always the oldest student in my classes.  I was always glad when there were students closer to my age in class.  I didn’t feel so left out when everyone else was talking about their fun plans and I knew my only plans included studying and caring for my family.

Did you have one class that was particularly tough?
Yes, a graduate level statistics class.

What have been some of your biggest professional challenges?
It’s always a challenge to be a woman doing work in a field dominated by men, especially when the clients you work for are men and are used to dealing with men.  Even in 2011, there is still a salary discrepancy that favors men when they are both equally qualified and doing the same work.

Photo Provided By: Cindy Carr

Photo Provided By: Cindy Carr

What are some of your greatest rewards during college or in your profession so far?
My work has taken me to many places across NC where few people would go, from the middle of cypress-gum swamps in Pender County to steep mountain side-slopes in Cherokee County and I’ve loved the plants, animals, and habitats I’ve been privileged to see first-hand.

How did you find your current position? Please tell us a little about your job and what a typical day is like.
I was working for a consulting engineering firm and noticed the NC Wildlife Resources Commission had a position open for the Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator.  Since being hired for this job, I am responsible for the State’s wildlife conservation document and am currently working toward a federally mandated revision that will incorporate climate change impacts to wildlife species and their habitats.  One of the best things about my job is that I get to work with many people who care about wildlife, habitats, and the environment.

What do you see as the most important issues that face your profession? What should prospective students, current students, and graduates know about the future of your profession?
Understanding how the various levels of policy affect the work you do: federal, state, and local entities have rules, regulations, and laws that will affect what you do.  If you have access to policy classes you will find the information useful later.

What advice do you have for students considering Natural Resources as an undergraduate major or those thinking about graduate school in Natural Resources?
There are a lot of different ways to specialize your degree program, so think about what interests you currently and visualize whether that’s what you want to do over the next 10 to 20 years.  Keep in mind that technology changes could open new doors in your chosen field.  And always remember, you can return to school if you want to make a career change.  I’m proof of a successful change based on returning to school to complete a degree for a very different field than what I had been working in.

John Crutchfield, BS ’79, MS ’92, Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences

JohnCrutchfield_profileDegrees:
Zoology, B.S., 1979
Zoology, M.S. (Aquatic Ecology Emphasis with Statistics Minor), 1992

Current Position:
Project Manager, Hydro Relicensing, Progress Energy Carolinas, Inc./Hydro Operations (Raleigh, NC)

What was your first job out of college?
Environmental Technician II (1980), Carolina Power & Light Company/Environmental Technology Section (Brunswick Nuclear Plant, Southport, NC)

Why are you willing to serve on the Advancement Council?

John Crutchfield (right) talking with friends at a Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences Alumni Reunion in 2009

I am extremely grateful for the educational experience that I received at NCSU. My career advancement and professional opportunities have greatly benefited from my education. I believe in giving back my time, talents, and money to support the University’s mission as a leading research and educational institute in North Carolina as well as the nation. I want to help current and future students excel in academics at NCSU and, in particular, in the field of natural resources. My son, Matthew, received his B.S. in Textiles from the University in 2009 and will receive his M.S. in Textiles this spring so I see the direct benefit and value of educating future generations at NCSU.

More about John:
In addition to serving on the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources’ Advancement Council, John is active in the following organizations: American Fisheries Society; N.C. Chapter of American Fisheries Society; N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission NonGame Wildlife Advisory Committee; N.C. Ecological Flows Advisory Board–Instream Flow; N.C. Wildlife Federation; N.C. State Fisheries & Wildlife Alumni Society; and the N.C. Water Resources Association.

Rachel Shellabarger, MS, 2010, Natural Resources, International Resources Technical Option

ShellabargerShrineRachel has many diverse interests from biology and conservation to international issues and human rights.  She was able to put these interests together in her research project studying the intersection of conservation and human rights on the US-Mexican border in light of undocumented immigration.

Rachel came to NCSU in the Fall of 2007, after earning a bachelor’s degree in biology in her home state of Iowa.  Rachel chose NCSU because of the international emphasis and opportunities for an interdisciplinary focus.  Rachel wanted to do her research in another country and was intrigued by opportunities in Ghana (where she went for an undergraduate study abroad program).   Although her research was not “international”, she was able to create an international issues project building on her summer experience before starting graduate school.

Rachel spent the summer of 2007 volunteering for No Mas Muertes in Arizona, an organization that provides water and other humanitarian aid to undocumented migrants crossing the border from Mexico into Arizona.  While there, she gained a greater appreciation for the complexity of the issues affecting the migrants as well as for the ecological damage done to the region.

Background:  In 1993, the US began enforcing undocumented immigration in urban border points, which moved the people to more remote areas such as western Arizona.  This led to a marked increase in migrant deaths, as well as protected lands being damaged by trash, erosion and fire.  One wildlife refuge (a 118,000 acre valley) saw as many as 4000 people pass through the valley each night, until a border fence was put up, pushing these people into the surrounding mountains.

As Rachel began researching possible thesis topics, she found limited research, if any, had been done on the intersection of conservation and human rights issues.  Immigration regulation decisions are made in Washington, DC, while enforcement takes place far away in the border areas.  Protecting the land and protecting the rights of the undocumented immigrants have a base in shared values but often the two subjects are in conflict.  Her thesis research explored ways to link land management and human rights groups in the region.  Rachel spent the summer of 2008 in Arizona interviewing people involved in many aspects of the issues.  She was able to be seen as bringing an impartial view and thus to hear in depth about different points of view – those who have lived in the region for several generations, those who manage public lands, those who have come to provide basic resources to the immigrants and the immigrants themselves.  The general consensus is that the current situation is not working, even if the solutions vary.  Different groups see very different realities.  In fact, two of the groups she worked with spent the summer preparing for a court case where a land management group charged a member of a humanitarian group with littering (putting out bottles of water).  Rachel sees herself as a social ecologist doing participatory action research – amplifying underrepresented voices, which surely are all parties involved in the issue.

The project received minimal funding – startup funds from Nils Peterson provided the money for travel.  Both land management agencies provided housing and various in-kind donations were made by all three community groups.  Rachel received a departmental Research Assistantship, which covered her own salary.

Of her experience at NC State, Rachel states, “I didn’t realize how much I could do as a grad student.  Even in Arizona, it meant something to say I was a grad student from NCSU.”

Rachel graduated in Spring 2010 with a MS in Natural Resources, International Resources Technical Option.  She currently works as an instructor and in the library at Notre Dame de Namur University in California and also works with their Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement.

Evan Keto, MS, 2010, Forestry

Evanmeasuringtree

Evan Keto has successfully combined a long-held interest in environmental issues with more recent work experience to design a unique master’s thesis project involving trees in parking lots.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, Evan studied environmental science.  From there, he worked of the U.S. government doing a tree inventory in Washington, D.C. and then writing environmental impact assessments.  He liked working in a city and looked to a graduate degree to advance in the field of forestry.  With current and future growth in urban areas, urban forest research and management seemed to be a secure job market worth pursuing.

Soon after starting NCSU, Evan took Gary Blank’s FOR 784 class, The Practice of Environmental Impact Assessment.  While researching a project for that class, he found that parking lots create many of the environmental impacts in urban areas, yet there was little research on the trees which are commonly planted in parking lots. A better understanding of how trees are being grown in parking lots could help decrease these environmental impacts.

Evan’s project characterizes the composition, function, and benefits of trees in parking lots in the city of Raleigh.  He measured more than 1,700 trees in parking lots across the city with the goal of understanding the composition of these trees at the citywide scale. This composition can then be used to estimate the benefits created by these trees. For instance, large-growing trees like oaks are more effective at reducing stormwater runoff, absorbing air pollution, sequestering carbon dioxide, and lowering energy costs than small-growing trees like crape myrtles, and these differences can be expressed in dollars. His research (along with other research) found that the estimated costs of trees in parking lots are outweighed by the estimated benefits to the public, but some arrangements of trees are far more beneficial than others. He is hoping his findings will be useful to urban foresters, city governments, cooperative extension staff, and parking lot owners.

EvanposterdisplayEvan received a Hofmann assistantship to cover his stipend and tuition.  He also received a Garden Club of America Urban Forestry Fellowship which paid for materials, fuel, some equipment, and printing final publications.  While here, he served as a TA for several semesters and won an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2009.

One of the best experiences Evan had at NCSU was attending the Society of American Foresters conference in Portland, Oregon.  He enjoyed learning about diverse research projects, exploring the different opportunities available, and seeing how big the field really is. In addition, he says “The excellent classes here filled in gaps in my knowledge.  Being a teaching assistant for Sarah Warren and George Hess was a great experience and pretty exciting.”

Evan graduated in 2010 and is currently the urban forester for the town of Wake Forest, NC.

Carter Reeb, BS ’09 Environmental Technology

Carter Reeb during undergraduate research and at graduation in 2009

Carter Reeb during undergraduate research and at graduation in 2009

Degrees:
Ph.D. in Forest Biomaterials, North Carolina State University (expected 2015)
B.S. in Environmental Technology, North Carolina State University (2009)

Profile below taken from an interview in 2009, soon after his undergraduate degree:

What attracted you to profession?
When I started at NC State I knew that I wanted to study nature and the way in which man has detrimentally impacted his environment.  What I didn’t know was how many ways in which I could accomplish that goal.  For me, cleaning millions of gallons of water per day that would otherwise severely pollute the local waterway is highly rewarding because I see myself as effectively protecting the local natural environment.  Every day I conduct complex chemical tests and operate a large system of complicated technology.  The attraction for me was the opportunity to continue my education of the natural environment and take a stand for the environment at the same time.

How has your education at NC State affected your career and/or personal life?
Most university programs allow a student to either become educated and enriched as a human being or become technically prepared for a career.  The ET program is unique in that it allows a student to become qualified to run complex chemical tests and understand large systems of complicated technology while at the same time educating the student in subjects ranging from anthropology and sociology to physics and statistics.

What is your fondest or funniest memory of school?
My greatest experience at NC State was the last week of my final semester.  I had made so many friends in the ET department and we all were cramming for finals together in the CNR Library.  I can’t imagine the university experience without all those great people and their support for one another.

Did you have one class that was particularly tough?
Analytical Chemistry (CH 315) was very difficult for me.  Luckily I had a group of ET students that were also taking the same class and we studied together throughout the whole semester.  I think every ET student should take this course as it offers valuable knowledge of applicable statistics, real-world chemistry and usable lab techniques that will make the student a better job or graduate school applicant post-graduation.

What has been your biggest professional challenge so far?
My biggest challenges so far as a professional have been networking and managing other people as a boss.  I always thought that I would be a professor or a lab tech but now I run an industrial wastewater treatment facility and instead of simply running chemical tests and reporting to someone on behalf of my own work I have to think about payroll and performance reviews and disciplinary action.  Thankfully I worked throughout college at the NIEHS, EPA and in Dr. Nichol’s laboratory and learned the basic skills of leadership.

Your greatest reward? The greatest reward so far in my professional career was meeting the Senior VPs of my company and being offered the opportunity to travel as a consultant at other facilities.

How did you find your current position?
If anyone tells you that it’s not what you know but who you know, they are absolutely right.  A family friend is a regional director for the company I now work with and passed my resume along.  This family friend gave the resume to his boss and finally it made it to the VPs of the company.  They suggested giving me a job out in Oregon and so I moved out here in June.

What is a typical day like?
For me the typical day starts at about 6:30 am when I show up at the facility. I get turnover (a rundown of what the facility is doing) from the graveyard shift and then I work with the operators who collect samples, run lab tests on these samples, monitor equipment and meter readings and make adjustments to the facility based on the process feedback. I sometimes will help the operators with the lab work or rounds of the facility. Other times I am doing administrative work such as payroll, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reports and employee training. About once every month I get sent to Denver, Colorado or Northern Alberta, Canada for meetings or consulting work.

What do you see as the most important issues that face your profession?
The most important issues that face the profession of water and wastewater treatment is a lack of fully educated professionals with bachelor’s degrees.  The majority of operators do not have a degree simply because experience and a certification exam are all that is required to operate a facility.  If even a few university students per year were to enter the water and wastewater treatment field there would be a marked decrease in noncompliance issues and untreated discharges to receiving waterways.  The work that we do in this industry is essential to the health and well-being of all humans and to the environment.  The future of this profession is in the hands of recent graduates with a 4-year degree.  For someone with a high school degree it would have taken 15-20 years for that person to get where I am only 5 months after graduation from NC State.  A university education and applicable experience makes all the difference.

What advice would you give a high school or transfer student considering Natural Resources as an undergraduate major?
If you have the aptitude for statistics, calculus, physics, chemistry and biology you should really consider Environmental Technology and Management.  Although completing the degree is no easy endeavor, the rewards are amazing.  Although I can’t speak to the Fisheries and Wildlife program or the Forestry degree, I have friends that completed degrees in both programs and they were more than impressed with the education and the resulting open doors in their industry.  My only advice is that you make friends within the department quickly and plan on studying with these people every semester until you graduate.  The available resources, smaller class sizes, more attentive and educated professors and friendlier people make the College of Natural Resources the best department at NC State.

Greg Conner, ’73 Forestry

Greg ConnerDegrees:
Masters Degree in Business Administration, Fayetteville State University (1998)
B.S. in Forestry, North Carolina State University (1973)
A.A. in Science, Lindsey Wilson College (1971)

Current Position:
Registered Consulting Forester, Forest Manager, and President at WoodsRun Forestry Consulting

What attracted you to your chosen major/profession?
I am one of those lucky people who from an early age knew I wanted to be in forestry.  I grew up in the city (Louisville, KY), but my parents were campers and I became a Boy Scout, so spent many days in the woods.  Forestry is a unique profession that allows you to commune with nature and yet requires you to be a business professional using communications skills, economics/financial/business skills, and science.  Working in a “Dilbert” cubicle would be a prison sentence to me.  Forestry gives me the chance to work as an outdoorsman, as a scientist, and as a businessman.

How has your education at NC State affected your career and/or personal life?
In the 1970’s, NC State was one of the best in forestry, and it remains so today. I got my first job because of NC State’s reputation.  But it is not just the classroom time that made a difference.  Beginning a network with the professors and other students was also a critical part of my education that I still use today.  One professors told us that knowing where to find information is more critical than remembering information.  Information changes constantly, so having a network is very important.  It all started at NC State.

What is your fondest or funniest memory of school?
I was in the School of Forestry’s first graduating class that included women.  This created numerous newly-encountered situations for some of the professors.  One professor, who I will not name, had always used dirty jokes to teach.  It was amusing to watch him begin a joke and, upon realizing that women were present, stop, mutter to himself, shake his head, and start over again – minus the dirty joke.   The women in our class were a tough bunch, who put up with a lot.  But they were also good at giving it back.

What have been some of your biggest professional challenges?
Managing a forest is the easy part of our profession.  Dealing with people is the challenging part.  Whether you are dealing with corporate politics, public regulators, or private landowners, you have to learn how to handle individuals, policies, and agendas that may be public or hidden.  Those who move to the top are usually the ones who are good with people and can communicate well.

What are some of your greatest rewards so far?
Recently I was working on a management plan for a private landowner and found that it was adjacent to a tract I planted back in the early 1980’s.  The stand had been thinned twice and now has a beautiful stand of loblolly sawtimber.  There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing your work come to fruition, albeit 25+ years later.

How did you find your current position? Tell us a little about your job and what a typical day is like.
I spent 30 years working for a corporation, only to be downsized in my early 50’s.  I thought I was burned out on forestry and tried selling insurance for a couple of years, only to realize that I am not a salesman and that I missed forestry.   So rather than trying to find a job with a corporation or government organization at age 56, I jumped into forest management consulting (more like jumping from the frying pan into the fire).  Consulting Forestry is very fulfilling, but it takes several years (some very lean years) to build up a client base.  In a corporate or government job, the organization takes care of paying part of your taxes, providing you health care, supplying your equipment, paying you a regular salary.  Not so, when you work for yourself.  There are a lot of benefits to self employment, but it has been a real struggle to pay for the other things you take for granted when you work for someone else.  As to what I do in my job, the landowner is my boss and it all revolves around doing what is right for the owner.  Educating my clients, who often are very misinformed, is high on my agenda.  Keeping abreast of current events, timber prices, vendor costs, regulatory changes, etc. keeps me on a constant learning curve.  I usually subcontract most services such as burning, reforestation, etc.  In the end, a consultant has to do it all.

What do you see as the most important issues that face your profession and what should prospective students and current students know about the future?
Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, wrote a book called “The World is Flat,” in which he tells us that the global competitive playing field has been leveled and the world has been flattened.  We now see most of the major companies selling their land in the US and moving to South America, where land and labor are cheap.  We are competing against South America, Europe, and Asia.  The day and age for working for one company, as I did, for most of your career is gone.  Working in a foreign country may be a part of your future if you work for a corporation.

What advice would you give a student considering Natural Resources as an undergraduate major?
I think that jobs in natural resources will be in high demand.  But those jobs may not be traditional.  Think outside of the box and give yourself a broad background in business, communications, and computer skills.  I think that traditional jobs will decline but professionals with natural resource base knowledge and the ability to communicate or who have good technical skills (ie. GIS), will be in high demand.