Amazing Students Profiles

Joseph Colbert

Joseph Colbert

Joseph Colbert has served his country both in the Marine Corps and AmeriCorps. As UGA’s first Pat Tillman Military Scholar, he is now pursuing his future as an ecologist with plans to continue his public service mission.


Columbia, S.C.

High School:

Dutch Fork High School

Degree objective:

M.S. in ecology

Other degrees:

B.S. in biology with a minor in environmental sciences from the University of South Carolina

Expected graduation:

Fall 2016

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

In 2013, I was awarded a research assistantship for UGA’s Odum School of Ecology with most of my support coming generously from the Pat Tillman Foundation. I showed up to UGA in the spring of 2014 as UGA’s first Tillman Military Scholar, selected for leadership potential and desire to continue service in the community. In addition to my service in the Marine Corps, I spent two years enrolled in national service as an AmeriCorps member. For this, I was awarded the Segal Education Award, which has also contributed to my research assistantship. Finally, in April I was honored by the Odum School of Ecology with the annual Graduate Diversity Award for being a veteran enrolled in a science program as well as a first-generation college student.

Staying true to my desire to continue service, I accepted the role of vice president as a member of the Student Veterans Association. I will be working on and coordinating numerous projects including local community service projects with outstanding UGA student veterans from all different walks of life and branches of service. I have regularly delivered talks with live animals to improve public perceptions and knowledge of wildlife like snakes at numerous venues spanning all age ranges. I also have been given the privilege to be a lab teaching assistant for ECOL 1000, “Environmental Issues,” during the fall 2014 semester.

Professionally, I have presented on research that I have been involved with at local, regional and international meetings such as the Odum Graduate Student Symposium here at UGA, Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation annual meeting in Kentucky, and Biology of the Pit Vipers II Conference in Oklahoma. The research projects that I presented are UGA partnership projects that involve how eastern diamondback rattlesnakes use habitats in developed coastal environments.

Current Employment:

UGA ecology research assistant

Family Ties to UGA:

I am a first-generation college student, but I would be delighted if my daughter can bind me as a family tie to this wonderful institution when she grows up.

I chose to attend UGA because…

… UGA’s Odum School of Ecology is one of the best programs in the nation for ecology and UGA has an excellent academic standard that is recognized by potential employers.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… to hang out at the new Student Veterans Resource Center where I can interact with like-minded veterans from all different branches and different walks of life. I can also use the SVRC to do some work. In addition, I enjoy swimming at the Ramsey pool.

When I have free time, I like…

… “cheffing” up some quality food, spending time outdoors, reading wildlife and ecology articles, and drinking the occasional craft beer.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

I worked with demolitions and a rocket launcher as an infantry assault man in the Marine Corps. While some would call it crazy, it was rewarding and extremely fun!

My favorite place to study is…

… at home, believe it or not! I have a nice office with comfortable furniture set up so that I can read, study and work on the computer for hours on end.

My favorite professor is…

… the legendary herpetologist and Professor Emeritus Whit Gibbons, who delivers some amazing talks and often teaches students how to educate the public using live animals that can be found locally. I have learned a great deal and had a lot of fun watching his talks. I also really like James Porter. He delivers an incredible lecture with enthusiasm and energy unlike anything I have seen. He definitely sets the precedence for public speaking in an academic environment.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Neil deGrasse Tyson. I learn something new each time I see him in a program. He seems like he’d be a fun personality to just talk science with. He is such a well-spoken and intelligent advocate for the sciences.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… make the world a more ecologically sound and sustainable place by creating a culture of people who prioritize our resources: minimum pollution, responsible agricultural and pastoral practices, reduced carbon output, sustainable harvest of natural resources, reduced water use, sustainable development practices, etc. This would greatly improve our one and only planet and everything we rely on to survive.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… hire researchers from a multitude of disciplines to implement ecological research programs all over the United States. We could learn so much about the natural world if there was more funding pumped into large-scale research programs, especially in places where humans interact with wildlife and the natural world.

After graduation, I plan to…

I can’t speak to what I will do for sure in great detail, but I know that I will use my degree for the benefit of the public as a research and education specialist in the field of ecology.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… my first impression of UGA when I attended the 2013 Odum School of Ecology Graduate Student Symposium. After spending three days watching students talk about their research and interacting with them during afternoon and evening activities I knew that my choice to attend UGA was completely validated. If I had been turned down, I would have reapplied again and again until I got in. I am ever grateful to my adviser, Kimberly Andrews, for taking me on as a student and helping me get here.