James Vonesh

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.
Degree                                        Ph.D.
Position                                      Researcher
Department                                Karen Warkentin Lab & STRI, Panama
Organization                              Boston University
Dr. Vonesh was the recipient of the 2003 Murray F. Buell Award for his paper “Multi-predator effects across life-history stages: non-additivity of egg- and larval-stage predation in an African treefrog,” which is based on his doctoral research at the University of Florida. Murray F. Buell ascribed great importance to the participation of students at meetings and to excellence in the presentation of papers. To honor his dedication to the Ecological Society of America and to the younger generation of ecologists, this award is presented to a student for the outstanding oral paper presented at the Society’s Annual Meeting.

James Vonesh

What key advice would you offer a student today?
Be a technician or a field assistant as much as possible preferably on a diversity of project types – even as an undergrad. This can help you get a better feel for what ecologists do and what type of ecology might fit you best. Start early to take coursework in math and stats and computer programming.
When did you get interested in ecology? Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?
I have been interested in biology and natural history since childhood. I spent part of my adolescent years in Papua New Guinea and that also played an important role in developing my interest in ecology. These early interests and experiences as well as an interest in conservation biology led me to take course work in ecology in college. Many people have played important roles in guiding my interests in ecology, but my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Craig Osenberg, was the most influential – much of my approach to ecology stems from being in his lab and interacting with the Osenberg-St. Mary-Bolker lab group at the University of Florida.
Describe your route to a career in (or using) ecology. What challenges did you need to overcome? What was your training, and what positions have you held?
I am a post-doc in the Karen Warkentin lab at Boston University. I am currently doing field work in Panama at STRI. This opportunity arose because I met Karen at a meeting in 1997 (when she was still a graduate student). Our research interests are very similar and we always enjoyed “talking science” together. When she got her position at BU she contacted me to see if I would like to come and work with her after I finished my Ph.D.
I majored in Biology as an undergrad. Took some time off after that to teach English in Japan. Came back to grad school at UF and did my M.S. and Ph.D. there. I hope to find an academic position in ecology. Training involved both coursework and research. Some of the most valuable training I have had is in linking ecological field data with mathematical models – a course taught by Ben Bolker at UF. More mathematical approaches to ecology have been challenging – but extremely rewarding.
What advice do you have for communicating ecology to diverse audiences?
Practice frequently for diverse audiences. Encourage them to be very critical with you. Take their comments to heart.