Zach Brym: Terrestrial Ecosystems

Zack Brym
Age: 23
SNRE degree sought: M.S. - Terrestrial Ecosystems
Projected semester/year of graduation: Winter 2010
Undergraduate degree: Ecology and evolutionary biology, University of Michigan, 2008

Why did you pick your field of study?
I was first drawn to the study of biology by its continuous opportunity for describing patterns from a seemingly random unknown. As an undergraduate in Emeritus Professor Jim Crowfootí¢â‚¬â„¢s first-year seminar on the environment, I began to focus on ecology. I saw my niche in generating scientific understanding to inform the social and political movements of our time. My study of terrestrial ecosystems is a consequence of relationships with the amazing folks I have been fortunate enough to work with on my research. Jeff Lake, a former post-doc in EEB, and Associate Professor Iníƒ ©s Ibíƒ ¡íƒ ±ez have been extraordinary mentors throughout these first stages of my academic career.

What is the most surprising or interesting thing you have learned in your classes so far?
Although, it is neither surprising nor interesting to many students, I have recently been drawn to ecological modeling. EEB Professor John Vandermeer described a model to me recently that demonstrates a regime shift, a sudden demographic transition or change in a fundamental ecosystem process, can occur with no warning. There is theory to predict regime shifts and chaotic fluctuations in ecological systems. I would be most surprised to see this ecological theory applied beyond the classroom.

What do you like best about your program?
I have the opportunity to be outside four days a week this semester: Soil Ecology on Monday, Forest Ecology on Tuesday, Woody Plants on Wednesday, and Friday I am at the E.S. George Reserve working on my thesis research.

What do you plan to do after graduation?
I will be working to obtain my Ph.D. candidacy in Macroecology at Utah State University starting this coming January. With my graduate education I hope to pursue an academic career in ecology. I hope to be a professor someday, teaching from experience and conducting useful and interesting research

What advice do you have for incoming SNRE students?
Make sure to connect with a mentor. It may be hard work to get someone to notice you, but once you are able to find a faculty member or senior graduate student that is aspiring to what you believe in and has experienced your current troubles, they are an invaluable source of inspiration and wisdom.

What is your favorite spot in Ann Arbor?
Though I spent many hours at the Big House with the Michigan Drumline, this is a no brainer. My favorite and most memorable spot on campus would be Nichols Arboretum. As an undergraduate, I spent many afternoons hiking and playing Frisbee on the great field making the Arb easily my favorite place on campus, though the Arb has become even more meaningful to me in recent years. I have organized two National Coordinated BioBlitzes from the patio at the Reader Center and proposed to my wife, Maria, in Heathdale. If you havení¢â‚¬â„¢t had a chance to wander the Arb just yet, I highly recommend you do. It is a great place on campus to get away from it all.