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Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Student Profile

Name: Grant McCormack
Graduation Year:
2014


How and why did you choose your major?

I chose EEB for a couple of reasons. In high school, I really had no idea of what I wanted to do. I took an AP Biology class, and I pretty much fell in love. My teacher was great, I grew really close to the fourteen other people in my class, and we had a lot of fun joking around and learning about the world and its intricacies. The class really made me wonder what about Biology I really loved, and since I'm a huge animal person, I had to go for EEB. Trying to figure out why wolves hunt in packs or why birds have such elaborate plumage or why deer overpopulation is a problem is really fun and fascinating to me! It was hardly a choice once I learned a bit more about the program, I just had to get a little push in the right direction.

Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.

EEB is different for anyone that might major in it. I'm pursuing a degree that specializes in Animal Behavior, so I've had the opportunity to learn about a lot of different phlya and classes of diverse animals. It's been one crazy trip, from trying to memorize the spelling and organisms in phalacrocoracidae to running a dip net into Lake Itasca thirty times to catch fifteen crayfish, only to have half of them die. Projects don't always go right, but that's just part of the excitement of biology! I've loved the EEB classes I've been able to take, though they're somewhat few in number. Ornithology was for sure my favorite and most challenging. Understanding the internal and external anatomy of birds is never enough - I had to memorize their plumage, calls, bill types, talon types, orders, families, and sometimes, how to draw them and describe them using haiku! There was a lot involved in that class, but now I can identify most of the birds in the Twin Cities, and let me assure you, my non-biology friends never tire of that!

What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)

Well, not everyone gets to say they ran two separate independent concurrent difficult field-based research projects at a field station owned by the university for credit! My major has lead me to all sorts of interesting places that developed my skills in understanding ecosystem interactions. I've been involved in four different labs/projects since my first year, ranging from washing test tubes to studying frog hearing using lasers. Each lab has offered a different skill-set that helps me with my understanding of the scientific process and culture that has become so fascinating and intricate in biological studies. It's not just a matter of putting on a lab coat, holding a beaker, and shouting "Eureka!" Biology's about trial and error, calculated judgement, superior communication skills, and above all else, the ability to share and demonstrate your knowledge! Working up in Itasca at the field station and at the U in the multiple research labs in which I've participated have all added to such skills in one way or another, really helping in my development as a person and biologist.

In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?

Plan to be surprised. College isn't easy, and it most certainly isn't simple. EEB is definitely proof of that! If you asked me how I felt about birds when I came to the U, I probably would've said something along the lines of 'they're cool.' If you ask me now, you'll regret the hour long conversation I'll have with you about every little detail about them. I never expected to find a class that would make me find those little feathered friends so fascinating, and I certainly wouldn't have expected to be involved in a lab studying frogs. So if you come into EEB thinking it might be a fun experience, explore everything you can! Go talk to your professors, visit the Bell Museum, volunteer at the raptor center, go bird watching, walk through a forest and try to identify trees, have fun! Ecology, Evolution, and Animal Behavior are all such fascinating studies that are so interconnected to each other and all of Biology that you can always find something that will make you say, "That's awesome." Not to mention, CBS has so many amazing resources, a highly trained and dedicated faculty and staff, and more research labs and volunteer opportunities than I could ever hope to count. So get out there and start finding what excites you! You never know where your life will lead you, so embrace that understanding and explore the resources and opportunities available!

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