Eric J. Larsen, PhD
Geographer and Ecologist
We asked each of our scientists to give us their thoughts on their professions and what they think the future holds for humanity.
What would you recommend for students wanting to pursue a similar career?
Obtaining a university degree in geography, biology, botany, or a related field. Experience is also invaluable, so pursue field-based scientific and research internships in addition to classroom-based training. If you’re not of college age, think about starting small and locally, such as volunteering at a local nature refuge or wildlife rehabilitation center. Take advantage of local educational opportunities and prepare yourself for the future by assisting local organizations in projects such as bird surveys or the restoration of local plants. A diversity of field projects early in your training will pay large dividends later on.
What do you like best about your profession?
I work as a university geography professor and so I have the flexibility to pursue and work in exactly the fields I am most interested in. Currently that includes the study of aspen-elk-wolf trophic cascades relationships in Yellowstone, changes in forests of Tibet and southwestern China and the population status of the southern royal albatross on New Zealand’s subantarctic Campbell Island. I like to travel to the wild, remote and seldom visited portions of our Earth and my profession both encourages and rewards that passion. I also enjoy sharing my discoveries and experience with others and hopefully creating a greater awareness, knowledge and appreciation of our natural world.
What makes you most fearful for the future?
The rate of human population increase and our ever-increasing appetite for the world’s resources. If we wish to preserve some portion of our natural world, we need to make some hard choices now at both the personal and societal level. These include reducing our consumption levels and setting aside habitat and resources for our fellow inhabitants of this astonishing planet. As a society, we need a wider and a longer term viewpoint than we now have. I am most fearful that the society we have constructed will ultimately not be willing to accommodate the viewpoint of either the wolf or the mountain that Aldo Leopold spoke of in “A Sand County Almanac.”
“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes - something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”
– Aldo Leopold
What makes you most hopeful for the future?
The fact that we have shown ourselves to be able to protect and even expand the range and population numbers of portions of our natural flora and fauna. The growth and expansion of wolf populations in the Yellowstone region is a good example of that – from the 31 wolves originally brought from Canada in 1995-96, we now have several hundred in the Yellowstone area population. They’re doing fine, which I think is a tribute to the many groups that planned, worked, compromised and currently manage wolves in the Yellowstone area. We can preserve, protect and nurture our natural heritage if the political and social will to do so are present.