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Professor Profile: Dr. Brent Blair

Chicago Native Co-leads Biodiversity Trip

By Kris Reilly
On August 23, 2012

Dr. Brent Blair has been at Xavier for seven years and is an
associate professor in biology and Environmental studies. The classes he teaches include Ecology (BIOL 250 and 251), BIOL 398 seminar and BIOL 499 for biology majors as well as Ecology and People (BIOL 120) and Life
Lab I (BIOL 125) for non-majors. He also leads a Costa Rica Tropical Biodiversity trip with Dr. Farnsworth.
Xavier Newswire: Can you tell a little bit about how you became interested in ecology after majoring in economics at Princeton University?
Dr. Blair: I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school and I
was always interested in biology. I decided to attend the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment. The interdisciplinary organization of the program allowed me to focus on different aspects and my
XN: What was your research like studying the California
Redwood forest as a University of California Presidential
Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UC Santa Cruz?
Dr. B: I was working in a forest ecosystem and it was a lot of fun. The trees are majestic. The area tries to selectively log the forest to be more sustainable, and I was helping to research invasive species coming into the forest after
XN: What was your favorite part about leading the Xavier
Costa Rica trip?
Dr. B.: I enjoy getting to know the students' personalities on a deeper level and the interesting activities in the program.
XN: What was your experience like of studying the rainforest in Nicaragua?
Dr. B.: Subsistence farmers are cutting down the rainforest there to survive which is ecologically disturbing, but I saw they didn't have a choice. The level of poverty is so extreme that if they don't convert the forest to farmland, they face starvation. Living in Nicaragua was a much different experience from visiting Costa Rica. The country of Nicaragua is much poorer than Costa Rica where it is easier to drive on the roads and access more areas. Nicaragua is strikingly different in lifestyle compared
to the United States where Costa Rica is closer to America
XN: What are your hobbies or interests?
Dr. B.: I enjoy gardening during the spring and summer seasons.
XN: What is something interesting that most people don't
know about you?
Dr.B. : I had dreadlocks for five years.
XN: What is your favorite travel destination?
Dr. B.: I always like going home to Chicago, where I grew up.
XN: Do you have a favorite sports team?
Dr. B.: I was a Chicago White Sox baseball fan when I was growing up.
XN: Do you have any advice for Xavier students interested in
the field of ecology?
Dr. B.: Take courses related to your interests, we have new upcoming courses to be offered in the biology department. Also, there are many ways to approach ecology such as relating sustainability efforts, politics and economic
issues. This can help you gain more insight as well.

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