The LTER Network Office is hosting this opportunity for graduate students to learn more about career opportunities outside of academia. Each webinar will consist of brief introductions by 4-5 panelists who work in a particular type of career, followed by opportunities for participants to ask questions.

  • April 24: NGO, Foundation, and Government Scientists
  • May 22: Science Coordination/Data Scientists
  • June 26: Science Communications and Outreach


Panel 2 – May 22, 10am PDT/ 1pm EST (1.5 hours): Data Scientists and Research Coordinators

This webinar features panelists who specialize in data science and in coordinating research and outreach (e.g., managing research stations and science programs).

May 22nd Panelists (bios below):

  • Stephen Diggs, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Hydrographic Data Group
  • Nikki Dix, Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Jennifer Gee, James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve
  • Beth Nelson, USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program
  • Paul Schueller, Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Center for Biostatistics and Modeling

Stephen Diggs

Steve is the Technical Director of the Hydrographic Data Group at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  A former field engineer, he has dedicated the last three decades to the design and operation of enterprise-level geophysical information systems that seamlessly deliver useful information from sensors in the field to the research community.  In addition, Steve is a member of numerous international oceanographic data science teams and is currently the co-chair of both the Council of Data Facilities for the National Science Foundation and the Task Group on Improving Data Access and Reusability for CODATA under the International Science Council.

Nikki Dix

Nikki Dix has been the Research Director at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM NERR) since 2013 through a grant from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection to University of North Florida. Her research interests involve understanding how estuaries respond to natural and anthropogenic change with the intent of informing natural resource management. Her graduate and postdoctoral research focused on plankton ecology and drivers of primary production such as tropical storms, eutrophication, and grazing by zooplankton and bivalves. Since arriving at the GTM NERR, Nikki’s research has expanded to intertidal habitats where she has collaborated on national grant-funded projects to study warming in the salt marsh-mangrove ecotone, new techniques for living shorelines in high-energy estuaries, and oyster population sustainability. As Research Director, she establishes research priorities and oversees long-term monitoring. Monitoring includes abiotic (e.g., salinity, temperature, oxygen, rainfall, nutrients) and biotic (e.g., salt marsh vegetation and elevation, mangroves, plankton, oysters) parameters within the Reserve to provide foundational information about how the ecosystem changes over space and time. She works to develop standardized methods at regional, state, and national scales, allowing for cross-system comparisons. Nikki also facilitates activities of visiting researchers, advises three graduate students, and works to develop collaborations between scientists, managers, educators, and the public.

Jennifer Gee

Dr. Jennifer Gee has been studying North American Quail since 1997. Her fieldwork is designed to understand the causes and consequences of contact and hybridization across three species pairs in the Colorado and Sonora Deserts. Her work is a blend of ecology, behavior and genetics. Jennifer was initially trained at Swarthmore College in English Literature, and Zoology from the University of Washington. She attended graduate school at Princeton University studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. After graduate school, Jennifer became a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University (Dept. of Neurobiology and Behavior) and Harvard University (Dept. of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology). Jennifer now is the Director of the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve and a Research Associate at UCR.

Beth Nelson

Beth Nelson is the Regional Director for the twelve-state North Central Region of the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. NCR-SARE offers six different grant programs, and Beth coordinates the Research and Education, Graduate Student and Partnership grant programs. The NCR-SARE program is hosted by the University of Minnesota, and Beth is on the faculty in the Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering Department. Beth began working with SARE in 2004 as the Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator for Minnesota, while she was Associate Director at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA). In her time at MISA, she oversaw the development of educational materials in key areas of sustainable agriculture. She earned graduate degrees in plant physiology at Purdue University and the University of Minnesota.

Paul Schueller

Paul Schueller is the program leader of the Center for Biostatistics and Modeling within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. He began his career as a fish population ecologist, where he used quantitative approaches to understand the biotic and abiotic factors that affected demography. His interest in the application of quantitative approaches to ecology and resource management lead to his joining the Center for Biostatistics and Modeling where he provides consulting support to state biologists and managers. The Center provides statistical consulting support, including developing study designs and statistical analysis plans, analyzing scientific data and producing user-friendly software tools for statistical analysis, modeling procedures and information visualization.


Panel 1 was held on April 24th, featuring NGO, Foundation, and Government Scientists

You can watch a recording of the panel HERE.

April 24th Panelists (bios below):

  • Norah Eddy, The Nature Conservancy, California, Oceans Program
  • Jonathan Fisher,  Pew Charitable Trusts, Conservation Science Program
  • Karen Gehrts, California Department of Water Resources, Office of Water Quality and Estuarine Ecology
  • Jeff Herrick, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
  • Alex Novarro, The Nature Conservancy, Mashomack Preserve, Conservation and Outreach Manager
  • Jacob Zwart, U.S. Geological Survey, Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow

Norah Eddy

As Associate Director in the Oceans Program, Norah leads the Nature Conservancy’s recently launched kelp conservation initiative, leveraging her experience as an entrepreneur to develop strategies to protect and restore kelp forest ecosystems in California, with an aim of providing tools and approaches that can be applied kelp conservation on a global scale. She works closely with a broad spectrum of stakeholders – from resource managers and researchers to fishermen and entrepreneurs – to develop creative solutions to protect and restore kelp forests in California, and around the world. Norah grew up in a small fishing community in New England, where she first fell in love with fisheries and working waterfronts. Her love of the ocean led her to complete degrees in Marine Biology (BS College of Charleston) and Environmental Science and Management (UCSB’s Bren School). Her work has ranged from working aboard research vessels from Puerto Rico to Australia and commercial fishing vessels in Alaska, SCUBA diving to restore coastal habitat, and advancing small-scale fisheries reform around the world.  In 2014, she founded a mission-based seafood company with the aim of creating positive change in the seafood industry and global oceans.

Jonathan Fisher

Jonathan Fisher

In his current role as a science officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts Jon covers terrestrial, freshwater, and spatial science. He provides scientific expertise to inform & improve research projects, works on strategic explorations of new potential work, and helps to increase the impact of research. Prior to joining the Pew Charitable Trusts, Jon spent 13 years at The Nature Conservancy. He worked on everything from organization-wide measures, building enterprise information systems to managing core data, studying how new knowledge spreads among colleagues, and even using a drone to measure water quality in small streams. He also worked with several major companies to identify ways for them to drive global sustainability improvements, as well as broader supply-chain initiatives around deforestation and sustainability metrics. Jon received a master’s degree in environmental engineering (with a stream ecology focus) and two simultaneous B.S. degrees (one in Forestry, and one in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, with concentrations in ecology and physics), all at the University of Illinois.

Karen Gehrts

Karen Gehrts is the lead for the California Department of Water Resources’ Office of Water Quality and Estuarine Ecology. The Office is the focal point for collection, analysis, and distribution of data and information regarding estuarine ecology in the San Francisco estuary. The work supports State Water Project operations and regulatory compliance, scientific research and synthesis, adaptive management, and long-range planning and policy development. Her research interests include hydrology, aquatic food webs, and benthic invertebrates. Karen is also a whitewater guide and an avid canoeist and hiker.

Jeff Herrick

Jeff is a Soil Scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Las Cruces, NM and is a Sustainability Innovation Lab Fellow at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He currently leads development of the global Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS). Jeff led the development of the nationally (US) applied rangeland monitoring protocols, and co-led the development of the national rangeland assessment system, both of which have been adapted for use in a number of other countries. He has published widely on a variety of topics including soil health, land restoration, and strategies for applying resilience to management. He serves as an external member of the BLM’s National Science Committee, is a member of the International Resource Panel and serves as the US science representative to the UNCCD.

Alex Novarro

Alex Novarro works for The Nature Conservancy as Conservation and Outreach Manager of Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, NY. He began this role in June 2019 after deciding to pursue a non-tenure career that better-aligned with his goals and values, rather than applying for tenure-track positions. His job is broad in scope and there is no “typical day”. At any moment, he might find himself managing long-term research projects, teaching kids about climate change while kayaking through a marsh, making land management decisions, working with local communities and politicians to achieve conservation goals, or running a chainsaw to clear a fallen tree off a trail. Alex received a BS in Environmental Science from SUNY Brockport and a PhD in Biology from the University of Maryland. For his dissertation research, Alex studied lungless salamanders to identify behavioral and physiological traits that can be used to predict population responses to climate change. After grad school, he served as a Visiting Assistant Professor and Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow at Swarthmore College. Alex is a herpetologist at heart, and has served as a leader in Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) for over 6 years.


Jacob Zwart

Jake Zwart is a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow in the Data Science Branch at the US Geological Survey. Jake’s research is aimed at describing aquatic biogeochemical processes and predicting how these processes may respond to future global change. Currently, Jake’s research focuses on producing short-term forecasts of lake and stream temperature at regional scales. Within the Data Science Branch, Jake also helps create tools for reproducible scientific workflows as well as help generate data visualizations aimed at teaching the public about current water issues.