BOX 4-14 EDUCATION THROUGH MENTORING: STREAM ECOLOGY AT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY

Training of Ph.D. students in stream ecology at Arizona State University relies on a mentoring system. My colleague, Nancy Grimm, and I spend one evening a week with students at our home. We cook and eat dinner with the students, discuss papers in an organized way, plan research, and contemplate issues such as where to get funding, appropriate ethics in science, barriers to minorities, and career options.

We encourage students of stream ecology to take courses in limnology, ecosystems, fluvial geomorphology, and statistics and to select a broad range of courses in ecology (for example, physiological ecology and evolutionary ecology). In addition, we encourage students to participate regularly in topical and departmental seminars. However, as with many small universities (or in this case, small programs in large universities), there is no written, formal aquatic curriculum. Faculty advisers approve student course selections based on (1) the expectation that they will become broadly trained ecologists and (2) their research needs. To be successful, students need to learn how to identify and solve problems, how to stay informed, and where to go to gain new, relevant skills. Highly structured curricula will not automatically provide this without sound mentoring.

The program is predicated on the assumption that there are two issues in the education of Ph.D. scientists: technical training and idea development. The former should be enhanced and will respond to curricular revision. The latter is as important and will not necessarily respond to a longer list of required formal courses. The future leaders of the field will continue to come from those places where students are engaged by active, demanding, caring mentors. Stuart Fisher, Professor Arizona State University

skills that might not have been obtained in an individually designed Ph.D. project.

At universities, postdoctoral positions, which are often vital to research programs, are typically supported by grants to faculty members. The National Research Council (NRC) postdoctoral program has been effective in bringing young scientists to federal research facilities. These scientists benefit the agencies by bringing new or advanced techniques to federal laboratories, from which they may be disseminated further for application in operating offices of the agencies. Postdoctoral scientists also enhance interactions between federal agencies and academic institutions. Funding for NRC postdoctoral positions is often vulnerable to tight budgets within the agencies, however. Federal agencies with responsibilities for water



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement