Ben Alsip

Environmental Protection Specialist
Home state: Illinois
Research Institution: US EPA, Great Lakes National Program Office
What got you interested in science and how did you end up as a Great Lakes scientist?

A prime opportunity fell in my lap in 2014 when I was aboard the R/V Lake Guardian in 2014 as a cooperative science researcher in the Great Lakes Sediment Surveillance Program as a grad student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As I was finishing my MS, I was brought into the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office as an intern and was later hired.

Describe your research related to the Great Lakes.

Primarily, I’m a shift supervisor during GLNPO surveys aboard the R/V Lake Guardian where I assist with our long-term sampling efforts. Throughout this summer, I have an upcoming project gaining experience with remote sensing of the lakes using remotely operated gliders.

Before joining GLNPO, my research has presented me with some truly life-changing opportunities. I had the incredibly good fortune to spend ten weeks in Antarctica studying how perennially ice-covered lakes in the Dry Valleys are responding to climate change. Closer to home in a tallgrass prairie at Fermilab (Batavia, IL), I field-tested a novel method for estimating ecosystem-scale gross primary productivity for my master’s thesis.

Describe an experience you have had working with educators or the community. What was something that surprised you or that you especially enjoyed about the experience?

These are neither educators nor the community, per se, but my time as a TA in Earth and Environmental Science was an incredible experience. Teaching primarily intro courses to freshmen and sophomores, these students had little to no scientific background. Winning over a couple each term, to science in general or even to Earth and Environmental Science in particular, was always a highlight of the term.

Why do you think it is important for scientists to share their research with educators?

None of our research, whether federal, state, municipal, or academic, happens in a vacuum. Research needs to be communicated, and educators are frequently in well-positioned to inform the public at large. In the bigger picture, this information will create the foundations for future research and create future researchers.

What do you think are the most critical skills for students interested in a career in science?

Oftentimes, the ability to know when to step back from a problem to gain broader perspective is the difference between moving forward and working a rut down even further.

More specifically, I would recommend that any student pursuing any science get comfortable with coding and statistical analysis. Datasets seem to only be getting larger, and courses teaching these skills will probably become required soon in programs where they aren’t already.

Contact Ben Alsip: [email protected]