What difference does experience in Au Sable’s Undergraduate Research Program make to someone interested in developing a career in creation care? At Au Sable, we are finding out, more and more frequently, that the answer is “A LOT!” Just ask Dave Rowley, an Ecological Monitoring Technician with the Great Basin Institute in his home state of Nevada.
Dave came to Au Sable in the summer of 2017 as a student. He had applied for a position in the research program that year, but wasn’t selected. Rather than let that outcome create discouragement, Dave invested time out of class at Au Sable with research assistants and their supervisors, including Executive Director Dr. Fred Van Dyke, to learn more about research methods involved in studying reforestation of vacated oil pads; creation of habitat for an endangered bird species, the Kirtland’s warbler; and identifying best sites to restore breeding populations of a native Michigan fish, the Arctic grayling. He applied again in 2018, and this time was selected as a Research Assistant on the oil pad reforestation team. Au Sable Executive Director, Fred Van Dyke noted “Dave stood out among applicants, not only as an outstanding student at his home institution, but also as someone who had consistently been building research skills in a variety of undergraduate investigations – sampling invertebrates in forests, removing invasive species, and, at Au Sable, showing the initiative to learn things from all of our 2017 investigations on his own time. He was a clear choice for a spot on the oil pad team.”
Dave spent much of his time on oil pad reforestation research collecting vegetation data, determining survival rates of different tree species planted on the pad, and analyzing the results of soil tests. After leaving Au Sable and graduating from Northwestern, Dave applied for and gained a position as an Ecological Monitoring Technician with the highly regarded Great Basin Institute (GBI). GBI’s mission is to advance applied research and ecological literacy through community engagement and through partnerships with federal and state agencies to support the conservation of national parks, forests, open spaces and public lands. In his new position, Dave works directly with a major federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), collecting vegetation and soil data at specific locations to assess the overall health of agency rangelands, which are essential for both wildlife and livestock. Dave is enthusiastic about his new position. “I see this job as a great place to begin my professional career working towards conserving the precious God-given resources of the western U.S. and to prepare myself for graduate school. I plan to devote my career to creation care in the west and this job is the perfect starting point.”
As to the value of his experience at Au Sable, Dave is even more enthusiastic. “My time at Au Sable was pivotal in attaining this job. As a research assistant, I collected vegetative data, identified plant species, and analyzed soil data. In my current position, I am using the same exact skills and gaining more experience for future employment opportunities in the process.” And according to Dave, working at Au Sable was not only vital in getting the job at GBI, it actually makes the work much easier. As Dave puts it, “Having a primary investigator that is as detail orientated and demanding as Dr. Van Dyke makes collecting data for a federal agency a breeze…[and] because I developed strong relations with Dr. Van Dyke and the Au Sable staff I gained a very valuable resource for recommendations and professional references.”
Dave Rowley’s life is already a great story that will become deeper and richer in its narrative of vocation in creation care as Dave continues his work. But Dave’s story is one of many stories of vocation in creation care that grow out of student experiences at Au Sable. Congratulations, Dave! At Au Sable, we’re honored to have been a part of your work of caring for God’s good creation.