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Meet BEES Prof Elizabeth Watson



April 26, 2016

Elizabeth Watson, PhD
Elizabeth Watson, PhD

Assistant Professor of Wetlands Science Elizabeth Watson, PhD, joined Drexel's Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES) after working as a research ecologist at the Environmental Protection Agency. She says being a professor is a natural fit, given her love of science, learning and helping students relate to their world.

Hometown: Sydney, Australia / Fremont, California
Degree: PhD in Physical Geography, University of California, Berkeley
Research interests: Wetland and estuarine ecology, historical ecology, remote sensing, ecohydrology

What did you do before coming to Drexel?
Most recently, I worked as a research ecologist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What is your favorite book? Movie?
My favorite author is Joan Didion, particularly her nonfiction. My favorite movie is possibly “Lost in Translation.”

What is your favorite food or restaurant?
My favorite food is salad, and I’m still looking for a good salad bar restaurant in Philly.

What/who inspires you?
Our president.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?
I want a time machine so I can see what the world was like in the past. So, I want to be a time lord like Dr. Who.

What was the most impactful moment of your own college career?
I took a graduate field class and one of our field trips was to the main pumping station for the California State Water Project. It is huge and the biggest consumer and generator of power in the state. I had never really thought much about where our municipal water came from, and the truth was shocking.

Which current event/issue do you think students should know more about and why?
I think American students and academics should have more of a global outlook. In my particular field, we have a lot to learn from approaches being implemented by other countries, and I think our belief that the U.S. is best stands in the way of being receptive to different and potentially better approaches.

What would students be surprised to learn about you?
I lived on a sailboat for several years.

If you could relive a moment in your life what would it be?
My husband and I sailed our 37-foot sailboat around Point Conception in California once when the waves were really big — 30 to 50 feet.

What did you want to be when you were a kid? What made you want to become a professor?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a geologist. I love science, I love learning and teaching, and I have a bit of a personal mission to help students relate to their world, so being a professor is a fairly natural job fit. But when I did my first post-doc, I was turned off about how being a PI [(principal investigator)] was more like being a manager than a bench scientist. As a result, I worked as a professional ecologist for six years after my second post-doc for two different government agencies. Over that time, I acquired a lot of experience working with and managing student research interns, and started to crave a faster pace and more dynamic setting than found in most government agencies.

What do you hope to add to the CoAS community?
I would like to work on campus carbon reduction efforts and contribute to programs that improve retention of students that come from disadvantaged backgrounds.