Katie Goodall—plant and soil scientist, human-environment researcher, and innovative science educator—can now add UMBS faculty to her impressive list of endeavors. This summer, Goodall will be a first-time instructor in Agroecology at the Station.
UMBS writer Jenny Kalejs talked to Goodall about her education, career path, return to UMBS, and thoughts on teaching science at a field station.
KALEJS: Can you tell me about your education, research, and teaching experience (including your time at UMBS)?
GOODALL: I was an Environmental Studies and Spanish major as an undergraduate at Wash U in St. Louis, which now looks like I knew where my career would lead. At the time, I was simply pursuing what I loved. It turns out, I still love those areas of study, especially their intersection, and have focused my teaching and research on Latin American environmental issues—specifically, agroecology and smallholder farmer livelihoods in the region.
I was a Master's student in Ivette Perfecto's lab at Michigan, where I learned the importance of the dynamic that exists between the social, political and ecological landscapes, which ultimately creates synergistic outcomes we wouldn't be able to predict using just one of these lenses. I worked in Chiapas with the rest of the lab, studying the birds on the coffee farms there.
Over four years, I was a Spring term TA for Dave Karowe's General Ecology at UMBS (Blissville, represent!). In addition to learning a great deal about teaching from Dave, I also found the Biostation environment and community enriching both academically and personally. [UMBS Associate Director] Karie will attest to the fact that I've been trying to get back to Douglas Lake since leaving in 2009.
I pursued a PhD with Ernesto Mendez at the University of Vermont, where I studied smallholder coffee farming cooperatives in Nicaragua, how farmers made decisions about farm management, and how these processes shaped environmental outcomes like biodiversity conservation. This furthered my research skills as well, because I collected both social and natural science data. While at UVM, I also taught several courses in agroecology, biology, and two travel courses in Nicaragua: tropical agroforestry and a course on cacao and chocolate production. My favorite courses involved extensive fieldwork on farms, so I'm really looking forward to applying this model at UMBS.
After UVM, I spent 3.5 years as a post-doc teaching in the Environmental Studies Program at Wellesley College. During part of my time at Wellesley, I was a Science Pedagogy Fellow, organizing regular meetings with faculty interested in exploring innovative ways of teaching science at the College.
I am now the Assistant Dean at the School for Field Studies, an organization offering environmental study abroad programs for undergraduates. This position allows me to keep my hands in teaching, mentoring, research, curriculum development and international travel. I'm also an alumna of their Kenya program, so it's nice to come full circle.
KALEJS: What excites you about teaching at the U-M Biological Station?
GOODALL: What doesn't excite me?! I have long thought UMBS is ideal for an agroecology field course, so I was thrilled to hear that it was approved. The state of Michigan has a lot of very interesting food systems initiatives, and the 'tip of the mitt' is a spot that has a good mix of conventional, niche, and ecologically-oriented farms. This creates a great space for students of agroecology to compare different farm management and livelihoods strategies, to learn directly from farmers and other practitioners, and apply data collection and analysis techniques to ask questions of these systems. Combine that with eight weeks of immersive learning that is only possible at places like the Biostation, and students are sure to come away from the course with a nuanced understanding of the complexity in agroecosystems.
Personally, I look forward to being a returning member of the UMBS community, this time with my family in tow. I'm excited about swimming in the lake, canoeing, walking along the paths of Grapevine Point, and exploring the area again. There's nowhere quite like the Biostation.