In the Spotlight: David Reeves, Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences

Graduate Student Spotlight, September 2017



1. What factors influenced your decision to attend graduate school at LSU?

I received my undergraduate degree from Loyola University in New Orleans, where I conducted research with Frank Jordan in the Biology department. He has a long-standing relationship with my current advisor, Don Baltz, and has sent a number of students to LSU for master’s and PhDs. When Frank connected me with Dr. Baltz, I was absolutely certain that we’d have a constructive relationship. It was simple. They landed a grant to fund my research, which made coming to LSU for my master’s an easy decision.

I’m co-advised by Don Baltz, professor of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences and Ed Chesney, associate professor at Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON). My master’s project was a collaborative effort with another student, and we surveyed more than 300 oil and gas platforms from the Louisiana-Texas state line to the Louisiana-Mississippi state line. We developed a broad characterization of what fish live there and how they respond to different environmental gradients. A lot of questions developed from our research, and towards the end of my master’s program, Dr. Chesney and I started to discuss potential projects to follow up on our research. My dissertation project grew from that, and that’s when he convinced me to stay at LSU.


2. What is your current involvement with the LSU graduate student community?

I’ve made some of my closest friends in graduate school, and a lot of those friendships developed from working offshore together in the Gulf of Mexico. Many of us were completing master’s and PhD projects at the same time. These friendships translated from working together to being friends, and helping each other through our graduate work. A lot of graduate students spend their summers at LUMCON, which is in the middle of nowhere. There, we help each other out, and I’ve made wonderful friends with different skillsets.


3. Tell us about your primary research interest at the Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences.

My research focuses on the ecology of fish and invertebrates that live on or around oil platforms and how these organisms respond to low oxygen. I intend to determine how these communities are structured and how they change their position in the water column. I’m also studying how low oxygen affects the diets of fishes using a variety of techniques including chemical tracers, stomach contents, and cameras.


4. How does the 2017 Science Policy Fellowship impact your graduate studies and research efforts?

Through the 2017 Science Policy Fellowship, I’m paired with a mentor at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Lafayette. The fellowship will help me understand what type of research is useful to managers. I’ll mostly work on projects related to the oil spill, including an assessment of sea birds that live in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a project with more than 200 scientists. When you have major problems and questions, it’s equally important to have good coordination skills so learning to communicate with a large group will be a useful tool.

I’m excited to experience a change from academia. I’ve gotten a solid background on how to do science at LSU, and I want to see how science influences policy. The fellowship will help me learn a set of skills to better serve the Gulf Coast, and the fellowship creates an opportunity to do science policy after I graduate.


5. What is a cause you’re passionate about in graduate education?

I’m very passionate about the mentor-mentee relationship between faculty and students. Mentorship provides a great framework for training the next generation of workers, and academia is one of the last fields where it’s prevalent. My advisors have helped me develop as a researcher, but they have also helped plan my future personally and professionally and have taught me to have a good work-life balance. The opportunity to be paired with a mentor is part of what drew me to the fellowship, because I learn best from working directly with someone.

Find mentors to model yourself after. Doing so had an enormous impact on me, and it played into my decision to stay at LSU. I love my mentors at LSU and LUMCON.