Eric Klein, MSES Class of 2004
Currently pursuing a doctorate in the Earth and Environmental Science Department at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
‘What convinced me to attend APU was the chance to be involved in meaningful research’
Eric Klein knew what he wanted from an environmental science degree.
Challenging coursework was a given. To realize his goals, Eric’s program had to be grounded in scientific research where outcomes matter in the real world. He wanted a degree that engaged him as a professional, adding to his ability to plan and conduct field studies, analyze the data, and then communicate results.
Alaska Pacific University’s Master of Science in Environmental Science met each item on Eric’s list – and then some. Today he’s a doctoral candidate in earth and environmental science, planning the next step in a research career.
“Simply put,” Eric says, “my MSES degree has given me opportunity.”
Your APU research on wetlands made good use of Alaska’s unique place in climate change studies.
That’s right. In fact, my MSES thesis was one of the first research papers to analyze ecological impacts associated with climate change in Alaska through a combination of remote sensing and field data collection.
My work focused on wetland drying and succession across the Kenai Peninsula, about 150 miles south of the APU campus. Working with my thesis adviser, Environmental Science Professor Roman Dial, I analyzed data for comparison with climatological data to develop a model capable of estimating future land cover states.
It was very rewarding to know that my thesis research was read by others and helped inform future research.
How did your experience in the MSES program prepare you for doctoral work?
Earning the MSES is much more than signing up for courses, taking tests and eventually walking across a stage at graduation. Going through the MSES program trains you to think more clearly about science, especially the research process.
The skills I learned in the MSES program are a strong foundation that allowed me to do interesting and rewarding work after I graduated. My degree was tremendously valuable in helping me get where I am today.
What advice do you have for MSES students? for prospective students?
I’d advise students to take full advantage of APU’s relatively small size – it truly allows you to get to know people, not just science. MSES students have unparalleled opportunities to interact with APU’s Environmental Science faculty and gain from their experience.
The relationships you establish at APU with professors and other students go beyond equations and exams. I would absolutely recommend APU’s MSES program to a colleague.
Why was Alaska a good fit for your project?
Though my thesis work took place in California, my research was heavily focused on the Western stock of Steller sea lions. Alaska was the perfect place for me to understand more completely what the decline of the Western stock meant, not just to the ecosystem, but to people who rely on the stock in various ways for their livelihood. Nowhere else in the US is the human element highlighted in marine science to such a degree, which creates a foundational element in much of the research that’s being conducted in Alaska.
As a Science Analyst at the National Science Foundation, I use my degree every day. My work is highly focused in research journals and data analysis. The MSES program gave me a strong foundation in marine ecology, marine policy and statistics, all very critical in the success I have achieved in my job.
What advice do you have for MSES students? For prospective students?
The best advice I can give is to take advantage working on projects with fellow students and professors. One of the most unique aspects of APU is its size, which allows students to work more closely with professors and with each other on a huge variety of topics and disciplines. It’s highly advantageous for current and prospective students to expose themselves to as much science and research as possible. It’s great that APU encourages that to happen.