Skip to main content

Joining the Lab

Openings in the Lab:

I am not currently seeking students for any specific projects, but feel free to inquire if you feel you would be a good fit for the lab.

Graduate Mentoring Philosophy:

(inspired in part by David O’Connor, University of Wisconsin and Erika Zavaleta, UC- Santa Cruz)

My primary mentoring goal is to make the world a better place to live. By training innovative and collaborative scientists, I will have a more significant influence on the quality of the world than I could by myself. Graduate students help create one of the most intellectually stimulating environments that exists anywhere. They enhance research and scholarship in the lab, the school, and the university, through their genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for ecological research. I will invest significant time, effort and funding into each of my students during their program, and will continue to support their career for many years. I am therefore very selective. I try to identify students 1) who share my optimism about having a positive influence on the world through shared hard work, and 2) who have the intellectual, communication and social skills needed to thrive in my lab environment, and ultimately realize their professional goals.

What you can expect from me

I strive to create a supportive and inspiring environment for students to thrive. I provide time, space, connections, and professional advice. I meet regularly with my students, visit your field sites, hold productive lab meetings, and support your professional development at each stage of your graduate work. I will help keep you on track to finish your degree in a reasonable time. I also work for a sense of community in the lab and the department and try to model professional honesty and integrity.

Funding - I will ensure that students receive a stipend year round for the duration of their program usually as a combination of research and teaching assistantship. This support will last for 2 years for MS students and 4 years for PhD students. I also encourage applications for outside funds whenever possible.

In turn, I expect

You will take advantage of what I and other mentors provide. I expect my students’ thesis work to be worthy of the time and energy that they put into it. Their work in my lab should include at least these four components (not necessarily in order of importance): 1) A novel contribution to the basic science of spatial analysis and/or ecology or related field. 2) A significant contribution to natural resources problem-solving. 3) Direct action or service of some sort, including communication of your work beyond the academy and/or positive contributions to the community or place in which your research takes place. 4) Finally I ask my graduate students to invest in and support the lab mission and all its members, provide feedback on improvements, and work to create an honest, supportive environment.

Writing - I expect all prospective students to have a good command of written English. If you do not write well, you will have a very difficult time succeeding in graduate school or in a scientific career. This may sound harsh, but it is true. I believe that effective writing is at least as important for effective management or consulting as it is in “publish or perish” academia.

Citizenship - Our lab does not exist in a vacuum. Graduate students should actively participate in their programs, attend seminars regularly, and be involved in school and university activities.

Personal responsibility and critical thinking - As projects take shape, students must become experts themselves. My primary job is to provide the resources and environment conducive to success. Students should know more than me about their projects. They should have a better grasp of the literature and should drive the evolution of their projects and design innovative approaches to their research problems. Graduate students are the lifeblood of my lab, and this requires independence both in thought and action.

The “NateLab” is not just any lab
I love the work that we do, and I hope that everyone in my lab does too. We are in a constantly evolving area of research with a multitude of applications. We try to do work the right way -- that means we share our results with one another and with other labs. We cooperate and collaborate with others who want to work with us. Everyone needs to be humble enough to admit their mistakes and accepting enough to work well with others.