Meet Tropical Ecology graduate student Evan Gora
Expected Graduation Date: Fall 2018
Evan Gora grew up in rural Pennsylvania climbing trees. But what he didn't know as a kid was that he would one day climb trees as part of his career. The Ph.D. Biology student works with tropical ecology Prof. Steve Yanoviak performing research in the Panamanian rainforest. Gora recently received a Graduate Research Internship program from the National Science Foundation, in addition to the National Geographic Young Explorer grant and highly competitive Fellowship from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute he previously earned.
In this Q&A, we discover what Gora does up in the trees, and who he'd invite to dinner when he gets back on the ground.
Honors and accolades:
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, University of Louisville Graduate Student Fellowship, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Fellowship, National Geographic Society Young Explorers Grant, Beechmont Garden Club Award, and Graduate Student Publication Award.
What has been the most memorable experience you've had at UofL? Why?
My most memorable experience as a graduate student at the University of Louisville actually happened during my time in Panama. I often climb tall tropical trees to study life in the canopy. Although you may expect the view from a tree top to be expansive, this tropical rainforest is so dense that it is generally impossible to see more than a few dozen feet.
One day in 2014, I climbed a large Jacaranda tree along a ridge in the Barro Colorado Nature Monument. As I climbed through the smaller trees below this Jacaranda, I suddenly emerged into a completely open area of the canopy. This tree stood taller than all of its neighbors and I had a clear view from this high point on the ridge. The forest extended through valleys and over ridgetops in all directions and in the distance I could see the Panama Canal. The view was breathtaking and this experience is never too far from mind when I climb a tree to do my research.
If you could have dinner with five famous people from history, who would they be?
Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Louis C. K., Aristotle, and Nikola Tesla.
Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree, and why at UofL?
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I developed a keen interest in biology and the outdoors. I carried these interests with me to the University of Pittsburgh as an undergraduate. As a sophomore, I discovered ecological research as a perfect outlet for my interests and I volunteered as a research assistant in a forest ecology lab. I have followed my passion for ecology to graduate school and never looked back. I was attracted to the University of Louisville by my major advisor, Dr. Stephen Yanoviak. Dr. Yanoviak is a classical tropical field biologist with an exceptional ability to perceive how life functions in nature. The opportunity to develop my own research under his mentorship drew me to attend UofL for my doctorate.
What book did you most recently finish reading? Why did you pick it up?
"The Lightning Discharge" by Martin A. Uman. Although the book was interesting, my reason for reading it was less so. This was the final book I read while preparing for my comprehensive exams.
Plans for the future?
After I complete my doctorate, I plan to continue doing tropical field research. This may lead me into academia or an alternative research-focused organization.