Robert Washington-Allen

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.
Degree                                       Ph.D.
Position                                     Research and Development Staff Scientist
Organization                             Oak Ridge National Lab

When did you get interested in ecology? Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?
My 8th grade teacher, Mrs. McArthur, was very good at answering any questions I had in Biology and Ecology so I wanted to be a biologist. As an undergrad, I studied Zoology at The Ohio State University where my advisor was the bee geneticist Walter Rothebuhler. I first heard about ecology in my introductory biology course at OSU taught by Paul Colinvaux, the ornery paleoecologist. I did take an ecology course at OSU , but all I learned in there was about Peace Corps, because the TA in there had decided to join. After OSU, I joined the Peace Corps as a high school math-science teacher for 3-years in Lesotho Southern Africa.

Robert Washington-Allen

Near the end of PC I had to think hard about what I was going to do with my life and I realized that the physical science that concentrated the most on helping people with the environmental problems they encountered or caused was ecology. The most influential ecologists to guide my career were Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac (The Golden Rule and Land Ethic), Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and Paul Colinvaux’s Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare and his Ecology Text (I loved his humour). More lately my mentors have been Neil E. West, Brien E. Norton, R. Douglas Ramsey, David Roberts, Anthony King, Monica Turner, and Virginia Dale.
How did you learn about ecological careers? What is your position title now?
Peterson guides. When I was lecturing at The Lesotho Agricultural College, after Peace Corps I stayed 3 more years in Lesotho as a sub-contractor to USAID. I wanted to find a field of study where I could continue an interest in applied ecology or geology, teaching, extension, and research. The primary option here was academia, but a number of federal agencies including the National Labs (despite soft money structure) also provided an opportunity.
Last year I was promoted to Research and Development Staff Scientist from Research Associate.
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?
Undergrad: The Ohio State University, Zoology Major
3-years Peace Corps Lesotho teaching Math and Science at an all boys school Sacred Heart Commercial High school
3 -years at Lesotho Agricultural College, certificate program lecturing on natural resource and agricultural resource (range) management, I also managed the college’s grazing plan and taught agricultural extension.
MSc in Range Ecology, Utah State University: Application of remote sensing on the rural Altiplano in Bolivia. Research Associate Department of Forest, Range, and Wildlife Sciences
PhD in Range Ecology : Utah State University : Application of remote sensing for Assessing land Condition and Trend on a commercial ranch in northeastern Utah. Research Associate Department of Forest, Range, and Wildlife Sciences
What key advice would you offer a student today?
Become politically savvy if you can (I’m not) and understand the world at least from one other disciplinary aspect. It helps you get around a subject better with a different perspective.
Read everything you can in Ecology and Environmental Science if your aim is to be a Jack of-All-trades master of None. Publish, Publish, Publish. Have fun.