Scott Schaefer; Masters Student
Hi, I’m Scott Schaefer... I’m a nerd, and proud of it! Can you think of a better term to describe someone who studies ancient history and collects coins, insects, and fossils? I have always been the type of person that was interested in anything that has a story to it. As a kid I practically lived outside and was usually covered in dirt from exploring the wilderness. I’d pick up fossils, rocks, sticks with engraver beetle patterns in it, you name it and I’d want to know more about it. I never lost the inquisitiveness which is why I ended up here studying much more complicated mysteries as a graduate student.
I am working on a degree in paleoecology studying organisms that lived in the aftermath of the largest mass extinction in history. Thus far I have been conducting my research under Dr. Margaret Fraiser’s NSF grant with the goal of providing essential data about the Western US during the Early Triassic. As an undergraduate I received funding from the SURF program to work as an undergraduate research fellow. I presented preliminary research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in Montana and will be presenting new research at the upcoming GSA as well. I have also been awarded a CGSA scholarship, the Wisconsin Geological Society Scholarship and the L. Joseph Lukowicz Memorial Scholarship. I consider myself very fortunate to be given the opportunity and support to work on this material and greatly look forward to getting my M.S. and working in a field I love.
- Previous degrees (Degree and University)?
BA Ancient History from UWM
- Expected graduation date?
- What is your field of study and how would you describe it to a prospective graduate student?
I study the recovery of rhynchonelliform brachiopod populations during the earliest Triassic, in the wake of the largest mass extinction in geologic history (the end-Permian mass extinction event). These brachiopods were pushed to the very brink of extinction yet somehow they managed to survive. My research hopes to shed some light on how and why this happened.
- What brought you to UWM to study Geosciences for your graduate degree?
During my undergrad, Dr. Fraiser offered me a position (through the Office for Undergraduate Research) to conduct research for her. It was through her efforts and my interest that I applied, and was accepted, to continue this research as a graduate student here.
- What's been your best experience so far?
I love working with fossils in hand, up close, and in the field and being able to tie what I observe in person to all of the big picture themes I read about in academic literature. Combine doing what you love with the support of people who love what they do too and voila!
- In graduate School, have you gotten the opportunity to travel as part of your education?
Yes, I have been on two trips out to my field sites in Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Montana. I was also lucky enough to be part of the Geosciences 558 field trip course to Indiana and Florida.
- What trait or thing has allowed you to succeed in graduate school?
Curiosity. I can’t be handed a fossil without wanting to know everything about it and the key to figuring it out is academic study, hence school.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to a new graduate student in your program?
Get to know your new best friend better…caffeine!
- What has been the hardest part about being a graduate student (Is there anything that you've had to "give up" as a graduate student)?
I kind of miss my job at the airport a little, not so much the work but the people, and being able to fly anywhere Midwest or Frontier flies for free. It made fossil collecting easier.
- What are your plans after you graduate?
My dream job would be an education curator position at any museum willing to pay me a wage I can live off of. The world of paleontology is too exciting not to share with everyone else.
- How would you describe the Department of Geosciences at UWM to a prospective student?
The perfect size, just enough staff to provide all the support you need in any geoscience field with people who genuinely care about your research and will be there to support you.
- What has been your favorite activity while you’ve been in Graduate School in Milwaukee?
Sounds a little dumb but I loved being exposed to the most prominent academia related to paleontology. It makes all the fossils I have collected and sites I have visited ten times more fascinating when you understand the entire context.
- What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
The beer and cheese, c’mon I grew up here. Just try to find a geologist who doesn’t love beer.