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Maggie Stoffer ’23J

Meet the Majors

What’s one misconception about your field that you wish more people understood? 
Ecology is A LOT of computer work. While I enjoy the field-based elements of ecology more than the hours spent behind screen, much of our time is actually spent doing data analysis/statistics/coding and this aspect of it is even starting to grow on me!

Your field seems very relevant to today’s global issues, where reports can often be fairly dire. What's one area or development that continues to give you hope or inspires you?
I personally channel the dire nature of my field as a motivation to ask more questions and want to get out there to find the answers to them. It has been particularly difficult to study the impact of climate change on species, and I imagine it will only get harder as we experience more extreme shifts in our climate. With that in mind, I find hope in continuing to experience the natural beauty of this planet, whether it is for science or for recreation.

What do you see as a potential future dream job or career?
I am hoping to be a professor! I really love the collaborative nature of research as well as how ecology directly works towards finding solutions for the most pressing issue we are facing today. I am also passionate about teaching and sharing my knowledge with others. I am particularly interested in the human-wildlife interface and studying how we can cohabitate with non-human species and lessen our impact on their habitats while also meeting the needs of humanity. As a professor, I also really want to work on dismantling some of the systemic issues that continue to be present in academia, and I think the best way to do that is to serve as a voice within the current systems in place.

Looking ahead a decade (or two) from now, what's something you’d like to have achieved? 
Within the next two decades, along with having gotten my Ph.D. and working as a professor, I would like to work on establishing a non-profit focused on place-based and hands-on environmental education (conservation, environmental ethics, sustainable recreation etc.), particularly for groups that are underrepresented in science and the outdoors.

I really love the collaborative nature of research as well as how ecology directly works towards finding solutions for the most pressing issue we are facing today.

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to share about your time at Smith? 
Advocate for yourself! You are so deserving of help, advice, extensions and anything you may need to succeed! Although it may be hard and anxiety-inducing, do not be afraid to advocate for yourself, especially with professors. Start early and it will get easier as time goes on.

Can you describe one moment when a professor was particularly generous?
I could go on and on about the generosity I have received as a student at Smith from my professors. Most recently, Professor Mariana Abarca has provided me with immense guidance coding statistical models for a research project I have been working on for a few years. I am certainly not known for being the most technologically inclined, so I am very grateful for her patience and willingness to help me so much!

Where is your favorite spot or a “hidden gem” on campus?
My favorite spot on campus is under the ginkgo tree in the botanic garden. I love sitting under the tree to read and unwind after class. A hidden gem on campus for me has to be the aquarium in the Burton lobby. I have actually taken care of the organisms in there for a while and if you look close enough you can see many creatures in there! A close second is the second floor of Sabin Reed which has pretty much become my second home over the last few years.

What’s one thing you wish you could tell your first-year self about your Smith experience?
I have had quite the unusual and unconventional journey at Smith, to say the least, so I would love to tell myself to be confident in my choices even if they seem hard in the moment, because ultimately they led me to become the person I am today and provided me with rich life experiences and lessons I would not trade for the world.

If another student was considering your major, what would you tell them?
I cannot say enough good things about my major. Even though the current state of the planet can seem hopeless, I feel so fulfilled every day to be part of the small group of people working towards finding hope and generating change to protect our planet’s biodiversity.

About Maggie

Hometown: Frederick, Maryland

House: Off-campus

Pronouns: they/them

Biology (Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation)