New Team Member Spotlight: Shelbie Kellum
Shelbie is a PhD student in the Jones Ecohydrology lab. She obtained her bachelor’s in biology from the Mississippi University for Women and is currently working on her master’s in geography at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her thesis work concerns identifying potential pond habitat sites for the critically endangered dusky gopher frog. She likes reading, writing, and pointing out invasive species during hikes.
What research are you currently working on?
Since I’m finishing my master’s degree at the University of Southern Mississippi, I’m currently working on two lines of research. My research at USM focuses on identifying potential pond breeding sites for the critically endangered dusky gopher frog using ArcGIS, drone imaging, and field observations. On the University of Alabama side of things, I’m looking at changes in plant species and elevation over time at Grand Bay, Mississippi. I’m hoping to do this through soil coring, previous imagery, and remote sensing techniques.
What are you looking forward to most about conducting your research?
I’m looking forward to connecting with the community surrounding Grand Bay and working with locals as I conduct my research. Anthropogenic climate change and the sea level rise associated with it not only threatens the region in an ecological sense, but in a social sense. Because of this, one of my main goals in conducting my research is to get involved with public outreach programs in the Grand Bay area.
What research have you worked on previously?
As I mentioned, I’ve been conducting research concerning identifying potential breeding sites for the critically endangered dusky gopher frog at the University of Southern Mississippi for over a year. However, my initial thesis topic involved dating longleaf pine tree cores and noting the fire scars to construct a fire chronology. The study aimed to compare fire chronologies at two separate sites, one of which was at a montane ecosystem in North Alabama. We wanted to see what impact elevation might have on the fire regime of longleaf pine trees. Unfortunately, my original advisor left before that project could be finished.
Why did you decide to do grad school/a postdoc? Why at UA?
I knew I wanted to attend graduate school because I was interested in conducting my own research one day. What drove me was the desire to help communities in the Southeast deal with the consequences of anthropogenic climate change. I decided on the University of Alabama for my PhD after talking with Dr. Jones and touring campus. The atmosphere of camaraderie as well as the interesting research being conducted in the Jones Ecohydrology lab convinced me that UA was the place for me.
What are your overall career goals?
To become a world-famous fantasy author. A professorship and a lab would also be cool. In all seriousness, I would like to stay in the Southeast, continue in academia, and conduct my own research. Since I developed such a connection with the Hattiesburg area, I can see myself returning as a postdoc or in a faculty position. In terms of research topics, I would like to study anything involving controlled fires, coastal restoration, or critically endangered species.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in grad school and/or a degree in STEM?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t belong. You do. Even if you feel like the odd person out, go forward with confidence. Don’t let your degree become your life. Prioritize your school work and research but make time for yourself and your relationships whenever possible. This is easier said than done, but your mental health matters and that should be recognized by your peers and mentors.
If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be and why?
I would be a longleaf pine because I gotta represent USM. They also live a long time and are tall. As a 5’3’’ woman, I’d appreciate being tall for once.
Name 3-5 artists or bands that you’re really into right now.
Zach Bryan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Longest Johns, Run the Jewels, Gorillaz.
If you had to watch one movie on repeat all day, what would it be?
Tombstone. I’m your huckleberry.
If you could choose one song that played when you entered a room, what would it be and why?
Decent Days and Nights by the Futureheads. This was a song featured in a video game I played as a kid (Burnout 3: Takedown), so it gives me a nostalgic feeling every time I hear it. It’s also quite upbeat and compliments the chaotic nature of graduate school well.