Callie Ashton Oldfield


  • Organization
    University of Georgia

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I am a field ecologist interested in forest community responses to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. I am primarily interested in the separate and combined effects of windthrow, deer browse, soil disturbance, and logging on plant community composition over time.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is the coolest thing you have discovered or learned about plants?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    Last summer, I was doing fieldwork with a group of undergraduate research assistants in the middle of a big state forest. We were identifying herbaceous species in the understory and were stumped on one plant. It didn't look like anything we were familiar with, as it had five whorled leaves and a large protrusion out of its top, which was a seedpod. We finally identified it as the incredibly rare and threatened Small Whorled Pogonia (Isotria medeoloides). While it may not look like much (mostly green, not showy flowers), it is considered the rarest orchid in the southeast United States, and had never been found in this location before.

  • Profile Question 2
    What lessons have you learned in your career about how science works?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    In high school, I thought that science was very straightforward and rigid - you followed the scientific method by making an observation, formulating a hypothesis, performing and experiment, and then making conclusions based on your results. When I began forest ecology research, I quickly realized that it is often difficult or impossible to perform an experiment on forest dynamics. Oftentimes, I rely on natural experiments where nature has created by control and experimental group. For instance, I can look at the effect of natural treefall on the community when compared to an adjacent part of the forest without recent treefall. I also learned that sometimes scientists don't begin research with a particular hypothesis or even expected conclusion - some of the most interesting research I have been involved in was on long-term plots, which were set up to simply see how the forest is changing over time.

  • Profile Question 3
    Do you have advice for students about preparing for a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    If you are a student interested in a science career, never be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions is the basis for science, and some of my best project ideas have come from me asking a professor a question that they were unable to answer. For instance, last year my adviser and I were outside in the forest observing large patches of a clonal plant. Are these all the same plant, or are they different individuals, we wondered? This became the basis of an ongoing genetics project where we are analyzing the DNA of different patches of plants in order to determine their relatedness.

  • Availability
    I am currently available for mentoring, please send me team match invitations

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

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