WEC Alumni in the World - Thomas Selby, USGS

It has only been a year since Thomas Selby (WEC MS '16) was in the hot seat for his master's defense, but his research momentum has not slowed since graduation. As a UF wildlife biologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), he currently works on a wide array of projects dealing with species like diamondback terrapins, sea turtles, invasive Burmese pythons.

"The majority of my work now focuses on database management and analyzing passive acoustic detection data, which was the core of my thesis work," Thomas says. "More generally I run analyses on data from our various projects to help create results for collaborator reports and journal publications."

Thomas came to WEC after learning about the program from colleagues during his tenure at the United States Geological Survey, where he was a contractor. "Several of our projects were in collaboration with University of Florida WEC faculty and staff," says Thomas. "It was through them I got introduced to the breadth and quality of research being conducted within the WEC department."

He found a research match with his supervisor, Dr. Kristen Hart, and with her help, Thomas carved out a thesis project about juvenile sea turtle spatial ecology in the U.S. Virgin Islands. "Specifically I was looking at movement and residency patterns of juvenile hawksbills within a marine protected area called Buck Island Reef National Monument," Thomas says.

The first chapter of Thomas's thesis-Using Passive Acoustic Technology to Analyze Juvenile Hawksbill Utilization of Buck Island National Monument, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands-was accepted for publication in the Journal of Ecology and Evolution.

Thomas returned to the USGS after completing his degree at WEC with a better understanding of not only practical tools-like designing ecological studies, analyzing data, and effective results presentations-but techniques for contextualizing his work. "WEC taught me to focus on how our research fits into a broader ecological framework beyond just the stakeholder's question of interest. All of these skills have allowed me to work more independently to investigate alternative techniques for approaching a question."

Eventually, Thomas hopes to work his way into a research position with an agency, or into a lab manager position at an academic institution. Read "Can you hear me now? Range-testing a submerged passive acoustic receiver array in a Caribbean coral reef habitat," Thomas's article in Journal of Ecology and Evolution here.