My Science Life: Stephen Tsikalas – Professor Of Geography At Jacksonville State University

Satellite imagery of the world (Wikipedia)

Welcome to the My Science Life feature of Dr. Stephen G. Tsikalas, Assistant Professor of Geography in the Department of Chemistry and Geosciences at Jacksonville State University.

Introduce Yourself & Your Field

I teach a variety of courses, including Physical Geography, Climatology, Meteorology, Natural Hazards, Remote Sensing, Field Methods, and Urban Geography.

Professor Stephen Tsikalas (Jacksonville State University)

What is your job like on a daily basis?

Each day ends up being unique, outside of my posted office hours and class schedule.  I teach four courses a semester, do a lot of course prep, work with undergraduates on various research projects, and serve on faculty senate and a variety of other committees.  Throughout the day I have conversations with students about course work, research, and do a fair share of career advising along the way.  Each semester I try to incorporate at least one field trip.  I also spend, on average, two nights a week with the student clubs I advise (Geography Club, Student Secular Club, Table Top and Gaming Club).

Tell us about your research

My current research interests reside in the realm of local weather and water.  Two of my most recent projects include citizen science water quality monitoring and tornadoes in Alabama.   I run a citizen science monitoring group, which is a part of Alabama Water Watch (AWW), a water quality monitoring network across the State of Alabama. We conduct monthly chemistry and bacteriological samplings in local streams and share our data with AWW.  This data provides a baseline understanding of our current stream health, so should something alter it negatively, we will have a greater understanding of the impact.  My tornado research is more recent and thus far I have worked with a student doing some general statistical tests comparing tornado frequency and magnitude during different phases of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

El Niño phase of ENSO (bom.gov.au)

What are some of the biggest challenges in your field?

The field of geography is very broad, encompassing both the sciences and the social sciences.  One of our greatest challenges is tying these two worlds of information together.

What advice do you have to those pursuing a career in your field?

Students interested in geography are always encouraged to learn the latest in geospatial technologies (i.e., Geographic Information Systems “GIS”, Remote Sensing, and Global Positioning Systems “GPS”).  Students interested in going to graduate school in geography are encouraged to work with one of our faculty (or me) on a research project.  Our department takes numerous undergraduates to local, regional, and national research conferences each academic year.

The ‘My Science Life’ project is a core part of Science Trends’ mission to give a voice to scientists and allow them to connect with tens of thousands of people. It is an opportunity for people, like yourself, to share their “story” and in doing so, make science more approachable and personal.

Interested in being part of the My Science Life project? You can find the details about submission here.

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