What does interdisciplinary mean? For Colin Phifer, a PhD student at Michigan Technological University, it has meant working with the wildlife ecologists he is used to as well as learning the methods and terminology of social scientists, hydrologists, soil scientists and engineers all working on the same questions but from different angles. For the past 4 years, Colin has been one of the over 130 members of an international, interdisciplinary team studying the socio-ecological effects of bioenergy development in four countries (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and United States). Funded by the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships in International Research and Education program (PIRE), Colin’s research focuses on how land-use change associated with bioenergy development influences native bees, birds and ecosystem services while other PIRE team members examine water, soil, and social and policy impacts. After surveying for both native bees and birds in three of the countries, he is now applying ecosystem service modeling to understand trade-offs with multiple ecosystem services and land-use change.
Colin completed his MSc at the University of Hawaii in conservation biology and his BS from Humboldt State University in California. From bats to birds, plants to pollinators, gibbons to whales, Colin has worked in the US and abroad to conserve biodiversity and provide for human well-being. He wants his work to lead to actionable, impactful science and informed decision-making.
The Finishing Fellowship granted by The Graduate School in spring of 2017 has supported Colin in completing his part of the larger project. When not working, he enjoys cooking, reading a good (science fiction) book, and playing hockey with his son.