Saran Twombly (2009)

From a “Focus on Ecologists” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2009-2011.

Full NameSaran Twombly
Job PositionProgram Officer
OrganizationNational Science Foundation
DepartmentPopulation and Evolutionary Processes
Professional AffiliationOther
Describe what you do and briefly describe the activities that your job encompassesI have taken a break from my faculty position at the University of Rhode Island to serve as a program officer at the National Science Foundation, first in Ecology and now in Population and Evolutionary Processes.
Briefly describe your job path.I was determined from a fairly early age to be an outdoor biologist (like my father), but had no science education in my one-room primary school, disliked biology in both high school and college, and knew almost nothing about ecology. Evelyn Hutchinson offered to be my graduate advisor and introduced me to the worlds of mathematics, theory, art and literature – all as they related to ecology. I then risked studying one of the largest, deepest and oldest lakes in the world (Lake Malawi, Africa) for my dissertation research. These three milestones have defined a ‘career’ that focuses on copepod crustaceans; combines field censuses, experiments, theoretical models and some mathematics to understand population dynamics and life-history evolution; and incorporates populations from large and small lakes scattered from boreal forests to the tropics. Hal Caswell, Bill Lewis, Kare Elgmork, and Carolyn Burns broadened my understanding of zooplankton life-history ecology as I navigated a traditional career path from postdoctoral positions to a faculty position.
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist (or other profession)?Like many professional ecologists, I spent lots of time outdoors as a child. My father took me duck hunting when I was three (he was supposedly babysitting), fishing was mandatory, and my sisters and I freely roamed the forests of the northern Adirondack Mountains and the salt marshes of Cape Cod. My father was a botanist, and by reeling off species names as we walked, he taught me that there was science nested in the joy of being outdoors.
What is the most valuable advice a mentor gave you or that you would offer to someone who’d like to do the same job as you?Clarify your career goals as soon as you can. Work as hard as you can to become top in your field. Above all, enjoy what you do.