About My Master's Degree

The Beginning

The beginning of my master's degree actually starts, at least partially, with my undergraduate degree. I spent two years at Penn State Altoona, followed by two years at the Penn State Main Campus, University Park. I received my B.S. in Geosciences in 2006, and along the way I did some research with Russell Graham (Russ), the local vertebrate paleontologist and director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum. He introduced me to small mammals, paleoecology, and late quaternary paleontology. He also started my interest in working in caves.


I took a year off after my undergrad to see if I liked working a non-academic job. It was awful, and I knew about a month into my job working for a geotechnical company that I wanted to go back to school and do research. I was laid off about 6 months into my job, which made going back all that much easier.

Master's Degree

I came back to Penn State Geosciences in 2007 to work on a project with Russ and get my master's degree. I continued my involvement with collecting fossils from caves. I also got into working with databases to work on broader scale, quantitative answers to paleoecological questions.

My master's research included a combination of field, laboratory, and database work. Ask anyone, I'm not around much in the summer. Summers typically brought me out to the Black Hills in South Dakota for caving. I also worked in some hiking and sight seeing while I was out there (a perk with field work).

On Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 I successfully defended my thesis. I am working on revisions at the moment, with plans on publishing some of the more interesting aspects of my research.

The Future

Towards the end of my master's I found that I had more questions regarding my research than I had answers. Which is apparently okay in science. My questions were also climate and ecology based, rather than geologically based. Which is also, apparently, okay. As a result, I applied for various PhD programs, none of which were in geology. It is common for people to get multiple degrees in things that are only tangentially related to each other. This was extremely scary for me, since I've spent about 7+ years immersed in geology.

I got into the Biology program at the University if New Mexico, Albuquerque. The person I'll be working with, Felisa Smith, is an ecologist who deals mostly with paleo-oriented research. I hope to continue with my study of small mammals, Pleistocene faunas, but also get into metabolic theory and morphometric studies. In other words, I plan on being extremely busy in a really beautiful place over the next 5+ years.