As the Aquatic Invasive Species Applied Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Project, environmental science grad Andrew Tucker ’04 protects the U.S. Great Lakes from harmful, foreign aquatic invasive species. By determining how to stop aquatic invasive species (AIS) from entering the Great Lakes, detecting the AIS’s previous introductory locations to prevent their spread, and controlling established AIS to minimize their impacts on the ecosystem, Tucker uses his Messiah College education to save the world one Great Lake at a time.
For Tucker, environmental science is more than just a job—it is his calling. He says, “Since my faith calls me to participate in God’s redeeming work for all of creation, everything that I do to protect and restore the plants and animals that God created helps bring God’s Kingdom to Earth…my faith inspires me to participate in God’s redemptive work for creation and gives me hope for the day when God will make it perfect.”
Alongside the major course material he learned during his time at Messiah, Tucker developed transferable skills that he now uses every day. His careful attention to detail, clear communication skills, and ability to recognize patterns and decipher connections allows him to succeed as he collects field samples and sifts through data, or crafts research papers and technical reports. His broad exposure to other vocations through required courses gave him the necessary skills to effectively collaborate with other professionals such as geneticists, statisticians, engineers, marketers and lawyers.
In noting significant influences on his career, Tucker mentioned Dr. Joe Sheldon, whose contagious enthusiasm for God and creation gave Tucker the impetus to attend Messiah, and provided him with wisdom and encouragement during his education. He also referenced Dr. Erik Lindquist, who provided Tucker with the opportunity to actively participate in a ‘real world’ conservation effort called “Project Golden Frog,” a plan to protect and conserve the Panamanian Golden Frog in the wild. Tucker even visited the streams of Central America to see where these frogs lived before a deadly fungus invaded. Although he did not realize it at the time, that project was his first foray into invasive species ecology and conservation work. He says, “I do the work that I do now because that experience helped me to see the value of each and every creature and how I could participate in protecting threatened ecological communities."
A few aspects of Tucker’s college experience most affected his current career. He advises students to do the following: take your major seriously, find internships to develop your skills, and develop team work abilities, attend conferences, present your research, and ”walk through the doors that open to you.” He also added a plug for ecology/ conservation work, saying: “We need all the help we can get! It’s important and interesting work that allows us to uncover new information to advance our understanding of the way the world works and ultimately to protect and restore it in keeping with God’s design for a fruitful creation.”