As appearing in the Coloradoan | 09.19.14


Question: Describe your typical day.

Answer: When I am on campus, my days are filled with a variety of activities.

Most days include some teaching, either a class or research techniques in my lab, class preparation and grading, and lots of interaction with undergraduate and graduate students. My days also include corresponding with policy makers, land managers and conservation groups about forest issues, attending committee meetings and research.

Some days I am in the mountains working with my graduate and undergraduate students to collect field data, and other days I meet with land managers in the field or at forest management workshops.

Q: Describe any research you may do and why it matters.

A: The focus of my research is on ecological disturbances, primarily wildfires and bark beetle outbreaks, in the Rockies and southern South America. A couple of example questions that I address in Colorado include:

Have fire suppression, other land management practices or climate change influenced the extent or severity of the ongoing mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle outbreaks in Colorado?

Do these beetle outbreaks influence the likelihood or impacts of wildfires in these forests?

This research helps policy makers and land managers develop scientifically grounded plans regarding community protection and ecosystem conservation in the context of the challenges of managing wildfire in an increasingly developed landscape.

Q: Why did you become a professor? And how is the work of professors different today than, say, 10, 20 or 50 years ago?

A: I am extremely curious about the world and few jobs provide the opportunity to ask questions, discover and continue learning like this one does. I also really enjoy teaching and interacting with students, who have a tendency to magnify my curiosity about the world.

Like most things in the world, the rapid increase in connectivity is changing some aspects of being a professor. It is much easier now to see how other people are approaching similar research and teaching challenges, and to collaborate on research projects with scientists in other countries.

Q: How do today’s students compare to those in the past?

A: I don’t have a long frame of reference to comment on this, but my sense is that students today are perhaps more motivated to follow their interests over picking a career track based on earning potential.

One clear change that I have noticed in the six years that I have been at CSU is the impact of the shifting burden to pay for school as state support decreases and tuition increases. More and more students are attempting to balance a job or two and school over several years, and it is a significant challenge.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

A: I have had many individual achievements that are certainly high points for me, such as receiving a teaching award from the College of Liberal Arts, success with research proposals and testifying to a congressional committee in Washington D.C.

By far, the most fulfilling achievements that I have had as a professor are focused on student development. Teaching concepts, theories and skills are obviously critical in the context of educating students, but helping them figure out what they are truly passionate about and preparing them for a career is a much larger challenge with more significant payback for students and society.

Q: What should I know you for? Where might I read your work?

A: I am known for my research on applied disturbance ecology in high-elevation (subalpine) forests. My work has been published in scientific journals including Journal of Biogeography, Ecosphere, and Ecological Applications. Nonetheless, the general public is more likely to hear about my work directly from me at a public lecture.

Madeline Novey covers education. Reach her at (970) 416-3955; on Facebook; or on Twitter at @MadelineNovey.

Jason Sibold

Title: Associate professor of Geography in the Department of Anthropology

Age: 42

Family: Married with two kids and a mixed-breed dog

Hobbies: Family outings, biking, skiing, travel

Education: B.A., M.A., Ph.d, Department of Geography, University of Colorado

City of residence: Fort Collins

Date started at CSU: August 2008