Tell us a bit about your career path.
I started my career as a coral reef biologist, studying shallow water coral systems as an undergraduate in Cozumel, Mexico. Later, I earned my first Masters degree researching deep water reefs the Gulf of Mexico. Due to a health crisis in my 20s, my life took a 90 degree turn and basic research was not something I could do. I did enjoy the bit of teaching experience I had in graduate school. So, I taught math and science in an under-resourced school district in Arizona while completing my second masters degree in education. From there, I became a professor at a community college in Connecticut, where I have been for 18 years. I coordinate the Natural Resources program, helping students like myself pursue jobs in ecology and environmental biology, as well as teach courses for a wide variety of majors. I am now near the end of my doctorate degree in Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies!
Any advice for students interested in STEM?
Life may take you in a direction you did not anticipate but there are often many opportunities on the new path. Take advantage of these and discover the possibilities for possibly an even better future. Also, find a solid mentor you trust who shares a similar value system. You may need to shop around for this but you will end up in a better position professionally and personally in the end.
What is your favorite piece of science trivia?
That those alive today are each descended in an unbroken lineage since the first life forms appeared OR you can fit all of Mt. Everest in the Marianas Trench and still have nearly a mile of ocean above the peak!
If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would you choose?
Rachel Carson - she was ahead of her time and broke open the field of toxicology and environmental studies for women.
Tara Jo Holmberg is an HHMI BioInteractive Teacher Ambassador.