Summer in the meadow

Summer in the meadow
Beaver Creek, Idaho, USA

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Ph.D worth of thanks: Full @USU_Ecology acknowledgments version.

So, when I came to USU over four years ago, I had no idea how my experience would end up. I guess I should have anticipated that it might look something like the right side of this popular meme:

Although my path through life, including my Ph.D has been less than linear, it has been a great run, with ups, downs, sprints and jogs. Above all, there are numerous, great people with whom I have been able to work, adventure, and otherwise, spend time with. While it might take a while, I need to thank all of the people for their contributions to my time in Logan and at USU. I got the chance to do that in my dissertation. But nobody reads dissertations. Nobody.

Below, is the acknowledgments page, as written in my dissertation. I'll break a few other sections out for further explanation in ensuing posts.


My research at Utah State University was made possible by numerous funders and individuals to whom I am very grateful. The Utah State University Graduate School provided a Presidential Fellowship, the U.S. Forest Service supported me as an employee in 2012-13, while the Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources provided additional funding. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supported me as a STAR Fellow in 2014-16 (Assistance Agreement no. 91768201 – 0). The Utah State University Ecology Center and Graduate School, the Society of Wetland Scientists, and the Society of Wetland Scientists’ Pacific Northwest Chapter provided research and travel support. Data for the work presented here was collected and provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center and U.S. Forest Service’s PACFISH/INFISH Biological Opinion Effectiveness Monitoring Program.

During my time in Logan, I relied on numerous individuals for support, friendship, mentoring, collaboration, and motivation. Foremost, I thank Drs. Joe Wheaton and Brett Roper for their support and mentoring. Under Brett and Joe’s guidance I have been able to achieve things that I never could have imagined. I look forward to continuing to work with both individuals to understand, restore, and steward North America’s streams. Thanks, gentlemen. I am thankful to the rest of my academic committee, the talented, creative, and inspiring trio of Drs. Nancy Huntly, Jim Lutz, and Mike Scott. They work hard, have fun, and dream big. I am very grateful for their support and words of encouragement. Brian Bailey and Enid Kelley have provided ace administrative support during my time in Logan. Thank you all.

I had elite company within the Ecogeomorphology and Topographic Analysis lab at the Fluvial Habitat Center (FHC). The FHC’s Sara Bangen, Dr. Steve Bennett, Dr.Nick Bouwes, Dr. “Big Water” Pete McHugh, Elijah Portugal, and Dr. Carl “the Colonel” Saunders have been great resources. Wally MacFarlane, mentor and friend, has been invaluable to my development while in residence in Logan. Thanks, Wally. “Keep it” Kenny DeMeurichy is a fantastic surveyor with a heart of gold. It was great to learn from you, Kenny. Current and former FHC students Reid Camp, Flori Consolati, Dan Hamill, James Hensleigh, Martha Jensen, Alan “Young money, cash money” Kasprak, Ryan Lokteff and Rebecca Rossi were exceptional peers and are poised to take over the world. Additionally, Logan Elmore, MarcoNegovschi, Elijah Portugal, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ Kent Sorenson, and Utah Conservation Corps volunteers helped me to carry out a stream restoration and monitoring project in 2014.

All of my coauthors have been phenomenal, however, Dr. David Merritt of the U.S. Forest Service and Dr. Greg Auble of the U.S. Geological Survey in Fort Collins, Colorado have been exceedingly generous. Thanks for the discussion, encouragement, and opportunities, gentlemen. I thank the Society of Wetland Scientists’ Pacific Northwest Chapter board members, Yvonne Vallette, Colin MacLaren, Dr. Lizbeth Seebacher, Karla Leaven, Maki Dalzell, and Katrina Poppe, and longtime Rocky Mountain Chapter president, Andy Herb, for great professional service opportunities.

Dr. Laurie Baefsky, Dr. Eric Chapman, Derrick Cooper, Seth and Megan Dettenmaier, Ben Dittbrenner, Logan Elmore, Dr. Kern EwingEvan Honeyfield, Tyler King, Andy Kleinhesselink, Dr. Brian Laub, Joel Martin, Dr. Christy Meredith, Nate Moody, Dr. Lloyd Nackley, Mike Nadock, Marco Negovschi, Jeff Ojala, Rodney Pond, the late Dr. Daniel Sarr, Keelin Schaffrath, Dr. Justin Stout, Dr. Erik Syrstad, Dr. Andrew Tredennick, and Alex Walker were great members of my academic and/or outdoor communities. Thanks for the trails, turns, and banter, gang. It was an absolute honor to share my time in Logan with Dr. Ann Armstrong and Brian Greene (and Thea) the best friends and neighbors I could have asked for.
Family made all of this possible. My parents, Patrick Snee and Tanya Hough, made many sacrifices on my siblings’ and my behalf. Encouraging us only to dream big, work hard, and have fun, they provided a world of possibility. My inspirational siblings, Dex and Vaune, have only one gear – full speed ahead. Dad is right…we should have been born in Sparta.
My in-laws, Lloyd and Sharon Long are fantastic people and I thank them for their encouragement. Their daughter, my best friend and partner, Lexine Long, has the toughest job in the world – putting up with me as I bite off more than I should reasonably chew. Lex, I love you and really appreciate all that you do for me. I owe you big time. Cedar, you’re a dog, but a damn good one, which is what counts.

Nate Hough-Snee

Lex and Cedar, propping me up, per normal

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Ph.D worth of thanks: the public school teacher edition

As I wrote my way through various dissertation thank-you groups (friends, family, mentors, collaborators, etc.) last fall. I realized that to give the full credit due, I'd need to take a chronological approach and start my thanks with high school and middle school teachers. First, these women and men have really hard jobs - to teach every student who walks in their door - regardless of income, intellect, background, race, religion, creed, etc. These are the foot soldiers in the war on ignorance, tasked with teaching any and all young, impressionable humans who walk through their door. Secondly, these teachers had a really hard task - to keep a hyped up, little version of me from getting into trouble long enough to learn something and allow those around me to also learn something. In the war on ignorance, I was probably helping them to earn their combat pay. Except it's public education, and there is no real fiscal carrot for all the content they teach, regardless of the difficulty level of the audience.

I'm extremely proud to have been publicly educated my entire life and I'm proud to have parents whose careers have been devoted to public education. You could say that in the Hough-Snee clan, we're believers in the original social contract behind U.S. public education and research. I'm particularly thankful to several public school teachers who helped me, and many others, out during our formative years*.

Pete Dawson taught geography and made us draw the world map every day at the beginning of class. In hindsight, that was a brilliant exercise. He also used current events to link blue-collar kids to the larger world around them, no matter how far away it seemed at times.

Mike Sears was an English teacher I had in seventh grade, and also my middle school wrestling coach. He taught the fundamentals amid a pretty dry reading curriculum (exception: Call of the Wild), and his wrestler-hard-ass nature made him a great disciplinarian for teenage twin boys with ADD, which I once was.

Jim Lefler was also an English teacher who had the unfortunate task of teaching my twin brother and I not only for a 9th-grade honors English class, but also during a homeroom/study module. How he managed to keep his good humor, empathy, and sincere concern for the people around him after the Hough-Snee train ran through his classroom multiple times a day, I have no idea. Congrats on your recent retirement, Jim. You were an enthusiastic teacher to all, and remain a friend to anyone who is fortunate enough to have crossed paths with you over the years. I ran my first half marathon at age 14 under your encouragement, and 14 years later picked up running again for the same reasons you did: exploring the world, meeting people, and learning about oneself.

Mr. Mcgovern was a 9th-grade general science teacher. He was impatient, witty, and knew the basics very well from a long career of teaching general science (a mix of physics, chemistry, and biology...I think?). He made science fun, emphasizing critical thinking and the writing and communication it took to effectively express those thoughts.

Rich Woodman and Lori Cohen - Rich was the women's volleyball coach at Mentor High School, in Mento, Ohio and also my 10th grade honors biology teacher. I think I got a C. It wasn't an A, but it wasn't a D, and I wasn't stoked on it, regardless. Lori was a biology teacher whom I never took biology from. She had the reputation of being a tough teacher and demanding lots of content mastery from high school kids (mitosis - you'd better learn it!). Somehow, the school allowed the two of them to team up and teach an independent study project course where students pursued scientific inquiry and presented their work at a regional science fair for their final project.

I signed up for their class when I was 15 because it was independent, met during lunch (so I could get out of school earlier in the day, if I recall correctly), and I got to do almost whatever I wanted. I pitched a project that, unbeknownst to me at the time, was "social science." I created a survey to get demographic data on students and then tried to link students' family income, parent hours worked, and parents' education levels to their academic performance. I recall the analyses being crude - I calculated ANOVA sums of squares by hand and then eventually using Minitab. In short, the hypothesis was that if your parents worked their asses off and were never around, especially for very little money, you might not have stellar academic achievement. I have no idea where the poster, data, or ribbons that resulted are, but I remember the process being hard.

I was a junior in high school, and was really into skateboarding, causing trouble, wrestling, causing trouble, fishing, causing trouble, and punk rock CDs. I am amazed that Lori and Rich could keep me focused on work long enough to get anything done, much less a continuous project that involved neither trouble nor punk rock CDs, and had a firm deadline.

Something about the independence, and the having a question, a poorly defined path forward, and a few really encouraging, but also intellectually hard-ass, mentors made the experience fun. It was type II fun all the way. My friends were eating lunch while I was hand writing proposals, making bibliography notecards, and, as I already mentioned, calculating ANOVA sums of squares by hand. I marvel that I made it through...and then re-enrolled in the same course my senior year. I was far more successful as a science fair student than as a high school wrestler...and I was pretty successful wrestling.

I have no one to credit except for Rich and Lori, who knew how to facilitate the lightbulb moments for all of the students who took on their science fair course. It was hard, but they knew when to push and when to encourage to get the most out of all of us.

Lastly, John Holcomb, a statistics professor at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, OH, helped out with the science fair program both years, and I was very fortunate to have worked as a student assistant on his revision of a statistics textbook while a freshman at Cleveland State. I have no idea why or how John helped a public high school science fair class, but I hope he got full academic credit when his tenure/promotion package hit the desk. I recall learning the fundamentals of probability and statistics in both John's classes at CSU in addition to his statistical consulting during my high school science projects. John was a great teacher, and like all of the aforementioned individuals, cared deeply about the world around him, including the students who came through his door at CSU.

Thanks Pete, Mike, Jim, Rich, Lori and John. By putting a lot of work into my development, you unknowingly put a lot of time into my Ph.D and the work that went into it. I had lots of other teachers, and many of them were damn good too (and a few were piss poor, but I digress). Thanks to all of you.

*Note that my formative years precluded cheap digital photography and cell phone cameras...and even cell I have no available pictures from this time, unless I were to call my Mom and ask her to scan some. And she's too busy for that. All photos from Rahwah Wilderness, CO, 2016.