Jean L. Richardson
From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.
Position Assistant Professor
Department Department of Biological Sciences
Organization Brock University
George Mercer Award for 2003
When did you become interested in ecology? Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?
Unlike many ecologists I know, I do not think I can claim any interest in ecology until my university days. Student projects introduced me to the world of research and I loved it so much, I just kept looking for ways to doing it! Even now, I find it amazing that I can get paid to do something that is so much fun.
Without a doubt, it is my graduate school mentors that have been most influential in shaping my career. During both my masters and doctoral studies I was fortunate to have not only great supervisors (Robert Baker and Mark McPeek, respectively), but also an influential committee member (Bradley Anholt and Joseph Travis, respectively).
How did you learn about ecological careers? What is your position title now?
My current position is Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Biological Sciences at Brock University (in St. Catharines, Ontario). I learned about ecological careers mostly from my graduate school mentors – Rob Baker and Mark McPeek.
Describe your route to a career in (or using) ecology. What was your training, and what positions have you held?
CURRENT POSITION (Oct. 2002-Present) Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Brock University.
POST-DOCTORAL WORK:Oct. 2000 – Sept. 2002: Department of Zoology, University of Toronto w/ Drs. Abrams, Day, Rodd, Rowe.Sept. 1999 – Oct. 2000: Department of Biological Science, Florida State University w/ Dr. Joseph Travis.
1999: Ph.D., Ecology and Evolution, Dartmouth College. Thesis: The Evolution of Ecologically Important Traits in Larval Anurans. Supervisor: Dr. Mark A. McPeek.
1994: M.Sc., Zoology, University of Toronto. Thesis: Behaviour in larval Lschnura verticalis (Odonata: Coenagrionidae). Supervisor: Dr. Robert L. Baker.
1992: B.Sc. (4-Year; Biology, Psychology), University of Toronto.
What key advice would you offer a student today?
Find a subject you love and then follow it. Hang out with people smarter than you. Science grows through constant critique – never take it personally. Persistence is more important than brilliance.
What advice do you have for communicating ecology to diverse audiences?
This is a difficult problem and one on which I am not qualified to give advice. My opinion is that the real problem is bigger than communicating ecology – it’s about understanding how science works. My impression is that the vast majority of non-scientists (maybe even a few scientists!) do not understand the basics of the scientific method and do not understand about probability and uncertainty. And the one thing we are certain of is that ecology is a complex subject. Thus, the challenge is to make this complex topic accessible to people from diverse backgrounds. I’m not sure what the best way to do this is, but I do think that it is important to be forthright about the limits of our data and outline all possible interpretations in a way that allows our audience to make its own judgment.