For my interdisciplinary Studies Course, I was assigned to choose and interview a professor in my field. My focus is in Biology, I wanted to pick someone who had a real passion for the field, and knew what they were talking about. I chose Dr. Leonard Reitsma, a professor at Plymouth State University. I have taken a couple courses with him in the past, and was very drawn to his passion for avian ecology. I sat down with him and asked a few questions on his work and studies.
Dr. Reitsma teaches a number of courses at Plymouth, including Conservation, Ecology, Ornithology, Invertebrate Zoology, Current Environmental Issues and Tropical Biology. He went to Nyack College for graduate school, originally for soccer. He then transferred to Calvin College in Michigan. The third school he attended to continue his education was William Patterson University in New Jersey to attain his Biology degree. Finally, Reitsma attended Dartmouth for his PhD in 1990.
His fascination for birds began when he was 14 years old. He received a field guide and a pair of binoculars which is when he began identifying birds with a group of older friends who became his mentors. Reitsma was also influenced by a high school biology teacher who also had a great interest in avian ecology. In 1997, he and a friend took a 3 month long road trip in a van-just for the sake of birding. He is presently conducting a longterm population study of the Canada Warbler located on his American tree farm in his own backyard. He catches the birds, tags them, and releases them. This 20 year study keeps track of population ecology, habitat selection, song complexity and mating systems. Reitsma has so far published half a dozen paper on this study.
Dr. Reitsma collaborates with graduate students on his studies on studies of tree harvest and how this effects bird communities. Another study tracks migration connectivity using geo locators.
When it comes to Interdisciplinary work, he has worked with Meteorologists using a data collecting device encamps that measures snowfall, which can also be used to collect data on birds, which is currently undergoing publication. This device can be used to track fall and spring migration patters. He has also worked as an environmental educator and in elementary education at local schools, teaching kids about the importance of the natural world. Dr. Reitsma has worked with Interdisciplinary Studies majors in the past, mostly as an advisor guiding students in the right direction when first starting out or new to the field. He recommends that students in his field should consider taking a few outside courses, such as Geographical Information Systems, which would be ideal if students were planning on working out in the field. Other suggested courses were social science, art, math and psychology, the basics. Since in my major, I wanted to focus on animals/ecology and the environment, he suggested that I take vertebrate and invertebrate zoology, animal behavior, and freshwater ecology.
Dr Reitsma has been a huge help in guiding me towards my future career. He has helped me choose classes that fit my needs, and will be most helpful in my education. I’m looking forward to taking more classes with him my senior year, as his enthusiasm for the natural world and ecology never fails to grab my attention and inspire.
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