College of Arts & Science at Miami University
Brendan Naples (Class of 2003)
- double major in zoology and geography at Miami
- from the Cleveland area
- earned MS degree from Appalachian State University
Our original conversation with Brendan was conducted in August 2009.
Update (March 2012)
"Two years ago, I moved to southeast Alaska for a fisheries biotech position with the U.S. Forest Service. My science background from Miami and Master's in biology helped me obtain this position as well as my former job as an environmental scientist in the private sector in North Carolina.
"Sometimes it's difficult to get that first job following graduation. Based on my own experience, I would advise students to find summer internships, especially the last two summers before graduation, in order to get specialized experience and to form relationships with potential future employers.
"Networking is also essential. It can be as simple as staying in touch with professors, former employers and co-workers, family members and friends. You never know when a casual conversation will lead to a job interview or positive recommendation.
"If you're interested in working for a federal agency, the U.S. government has strict standards on coursework and experience. Students should check to see which courses are required for positions they're interested in (fisheries biologist in southeast Alaska, for example!)."
"Hi, I'm Brendan Naples. From a young age I've been interested in the outdoors, world cultures, and environmental issues. I spent a lot of time hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeast Ohio. In high school I visited the Cascade Mountains of Washington state and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle and became hooked on travel, mountains, and the world 'out there.'
I chose Miami because it was the best bang for the buck in Ohio. I majored in zoology and later added geography as a major. The two majors offered a well rounded background in how both the natural and socio-political worlds 'work' and helped me to grasp just how interconnected things like environmental issues, human health, climate change, economics, and political conflicts are.
An amazing program at Miami is called the Undergraduate Summer Scholars (USS) Award, which encourages students to propose and design research projects. If awarded, students receive generous scholarships for their research. The summer before my senior year I was fortunate enough to receive this award and I spent the summer traveling throughout Bolivia investigating the relationship between international aid and conservation and community development, as they happened on the ground. I found that international aid is only effective when local knowledge and participation is considered.
After I graduated I volunteered for AmeriCorps' Student Conservation Association, once for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, surveying invasive plant species, and once in Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska surveying sockeye salmon populations in a backcountry setting. AmeriCorps participants receive educational awards after they complete their service agreement.
The awards helped me pay for my Master's Degree at Appalachian State University, where I studied forest ecology with my advisor Dr. Melany Fisk, who is now a faculty member in Miami's Department of Zoology. Our research investigated how airborne pollutants affect northeastern forests, and culminated in a recently published article in the journal Biogeochemistry.
After my degree I went back to work for the U.S. Forest Service in southeast Alaska for a seasonal job again surveying sockeye salmon populations and plant communities in the region.
My advice to students:
- Do not conform, and always pursue (and make true), your crazy dreams. It's your choice as to whether or not they happen. Miami will offer you the resources and opportunities to help you make anything happen. You just need to seek out those opportunities; they're there for you.
- Also, get to know your professors, they are a wealth of knowledge and experiences and can help to get you where you need to be."