By: Nina Damiano

Ecology and its subfield, of vertical farming is key to today’s understanding of the environment and its modern applications. In September, SLIA hosted a Climate Careers Chat discussing just this. The virtual webinar featured two experts: Rebecca Nelson, a PhD student at UC Davis studying ecology, and Jim Pantaleo, a business coordinator in the vertical farming industry. Here’s a recap of the conversation about their education and career pathways as well as their advice for anyone looking to learn more about these fields!

12239650270?profile=RESIZE_710xRebecca Nelson

Rebecca Nelson started her journey in ecology just out of high school as an undergraduate at Stanford University, where she got a Bachelor's degree in Biology before moving on to University of California, Davis, to get a Masters degree in Ecology. Currently, she is a PhD candidate in ecology doing lab work at UC Davis. In her work there, Rebecca combines fieldwork with data collection to research how climate change’s impacts to the environment affect the relationship between the plants and pollinators of California grasslands. Her goal is to inform climate-resilient ecological restoration and pollinator conservation and she has spread her influence on these issues outside the lab as a board member for Northern California Botanists and the chair of the California Invasive Plant Council Student Section working with other environmental NGOs!

Fun Fact: She is also a freelance science writer and poet!

What is ecology? Ecology is a branch of biology that studies the relationship between organisms and their environment. 


12239649892?profile=RESIZE_400xJim Pantaleo

Jim Pantaleo’s career in vertical farming wasn’t clear from the beginning- he originally got a degree in International Relations before spending 20 years in the technology industry. Deciding that this path wasn’t right for him, he switched his career track to become a pioneer in indoor vertical farming for food production, landing a job at the landmark indoor vertical farm company, Urban Produce- Southern California’s first large-scale indoor vertical farm. He later worked at Oasis Biotech- an advanced indoor vertical farm in Las Vegas, engaging them with universities and the government as well as helping with seed trials- tests on seeds that would be used in vertical farms. Like Rebecca, he eventually ended up in UC Davis, where he is currently the Business Development Coordinator at the Artificial Intelligence Institute for Next Generation Food Systems.

Fun Fact: The researchers he works with are primarily data scientists!

What is vertical farming? Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in layers stacked vertically. Usually, variables such as temperature, growth medium, and light are controlled in order to fully maximize plant growth.

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