Student Spotlight: Kyle Turchick

The CRMRN will be sharing Q&As with graduate and postdoctoral network members throughout the summer. Stay tuned!

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Meet Kyle Turchick. Kyle is a Master’s student in the Buma Lab at the University of Colorado Denver. With his advisor, CRMRN steering committee member Brian Buma, he is studying disturbance ecology on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska. We asked him a few questions following our third workshop in April 2019.

What led to your interest in studying disturbance ecology?

K: In hindsight, I’d say it all began in 1999 when hurricane Floyd hit the Northeast U.S. The floods that accompanied the storm caused the streams to swell up to the point that one brook rose above a nearby bridge and swept it away. That bridge led to the dead-end street that I just so happened to live on as a kid. With the bridge gone, we were stuck, or at least our cars were stuck. But my neighbor, Didiae, didn’t think his truck was stuck. I remember him saying that he could probably drive his new truck across the gap, but when he got to the bridge and saw that it was 20ft across, he had no other choice but to reconsider. While the bridge was being reconstructed, the town chose to clear a nearby forest in order to connect our dead-end to the nearest road. This series of events – the hurricane to the bridge collapse to the conversion of a forest to a road – probably set the seed for my interest in disturbance ecology.

Plus, I produced a video for a storytelling competition called “PlanetForward”. At the time, I was an undergraduate and in the video I detail a trip story from a fieldwork experience and then reflect on a major event that happened while on the trip.

What do you hope to gain from being a part of the CRMRN network?

K: I hope to gain, at the very least, just a little bit of insight and perspective from each member. I’ve always been fascinated by how different specialists can look at the same system from such different perspectives. Some of the perspectives I’m most interested in learning more about are pedology, biogeochemistry, and hydrogeomorphology – at least for now.

What was the most interesting/useful thing you got out of the workshop?

K: Hearing others from various “-ologies” talk about aspects of the temperate rainforest system that I was, and am, interested in was rather mind-blowing. I like to think that my research has forced me to think in a systems manner, but after hearing and even participating in some interdisciplinary conversations I’ve become more aware of the breadth of the system. It’s interesting how a conversation can rock one’s perspective in a manner that resonates in a way that’s different than reading a journal article. The interdisciplinary nature of soils – a biogeochemical membrane – seems to have provided fertile ground for such systems conversation.

The workshop also provided a sweeping survey of the current state of knowledge. That is, common ground was established and knowledge gaps were highlighted. Since I’m coming into the field as a novice, it was priceless to engage with minds at the frontier of their respective domain.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

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