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Corey Clatterbuck: Not Just a Flight of Fancy

“Significant research doesn’t just take place in a library or on a campus, but is also possible in wild, beautiful, and formidable environments.”

As a graduate student in biology at San Jose State University, Corey Clatterbuck ’08 had the opportunity to accompany her advisor to Laysan Island and Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where they used GPS and GLS devices to track movements of breeding Laysan albatrosses.

Corey Clatterbuck

Clatterbuck found that experience typical of most field research. During a three-week period, they endured:

  • Bathing in ocean water
  • Ant infestations in their tents
  • Basic equipment maintenance, such as on a propane hose needed to warm food
  • A tsunami warning that prompted a middle-of-the-night evacuation to the highest point on the island
  • Emergency evacuation of a sick team member, whose care while on the island required that Clatterbuck give her daily shots using medical supplies dropped by the Coast Guard

And Clatterbuck can’t get enough of it.

When she completes her master’s degree, she will likely continue her field research as she pursues a doctorate. Before she entered graduate school, she accepted research jobs that took her from Alaska to the islands off the coast of Washington state. She studied the behavior of salmon in the Alaskan interior and the geographic distribution of the marbled murrelet, “a federally threatened and charismatic little seabird that poses all sorts of interesting wildlife management decisions.”

“This research lets me mix my love of developmental and behavioral biology—classes I took at Transylvania—while expanding on questions of ecological conservation,” explains Clatterbuck.

When Clatterbuck graduated from Transylvania, she first headed to Seattle to work for AmeriCorps in a position supporting K-12 education. The setting proved as inspirational as the job.

“Seattle is surrounded by gorgeous mountain ranges and bodies of water—the Cascades, the Olympics, Puget Sound—and I ended up hiking and exploring during most of my free time. After a year of office work, I was ready to spend more time outdoors.”

So Clatterbuck returned to her first love: field research.

While at Transylvania, Clatterbuck indulged her interest in exploring new places by studying abroad during two May terms: she traveled to Belize with biology professors Belinda Sly and James Wagner to study tropical ecology, and to Honduras with anthropology professor Chris Begley, an archaeologist who shared his knowledge of working at remote field sites.

Clatterbuck also acknowledges writing, rhetoric, and communication professor Scott Whiddon and education professor Angela Hurley for their guidance and commitment to classroom education.

“With continued attacks on science education, and evolution in particular, I feel it’s important for scientists to continue work in the classroom. I love a variety of challenges, from remote field work to teaching college labs, and Transylvania helped develop that passion.”

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