Graduating Senior Ian Stonefield

For Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity (EEB) senior Ian Stonefield, the natural world has always fascinated him. Finding exactly where his career within it, however, took a little trial and error.

"Growing up, I really thought I wanted to be a veterinarian for a long time. I worked at a veterinary office for about three years after high school and found that it just wasn't for me," said Stonefield, who will graduate with a degree in Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity from the College of Science and Technology in December. "When I first came to Temple, I originally started out as a Biology major but I felt a pull toward the ecology aspects of the field — I chose the EEB major as a result and that was the best move for me."

Stonefield, who was recruited to Temple as a player for the Temple Owls Ice Hockey team, said he chose to apply to become a Research Intern with the Temple Ambler Field Station during his sophomore year "purely because I loved the first ecology class that I took — Principals of Ecology."

"From there I talked to a few professors, and they recommended the Field Station to me. I reached out to (Field Station Director) Dr. Amy Freestone and she directed me to Field Station Assistant Director Dr. Mariana Bonfim — from day one of working there, I've loved it," he said. "What has kept me coming back each semester is the experience that I've gained. I've been able to go out and conduct my own research along with collaborating with professors and other research interns on bigger projects."

Right out of the gate, Stonefield said, he and his fellow research interns "got right out into the field working on a censusing project," during his first semester with the Field Station.

"It's always been fun to be out in the field and working with a great group of people. Even for our personal projects, we've always tried to help each other along the way," he said. "During that first project, we tagged or re-tagged a lot of woody trees and shrubs. We were measuring and taking as much data as we could about everything we were observing."

Stonefield's first personal Field Station project focused on the non-native species of woody trees and shrubs in the Temple Forest Observatory after the tornado that struck campus in 2021 and comparing that to data from before the disturbance to see how those non-native species fared through the tornado."

"There is a huge benefit to working with the Field Station in that you're really exposed to a lot of post-doctorate and post-graduate students and getting their experience and help with the things that we're working on. You're getting insight into what they are doing and what their projects are," he said. "Experiencing the outdoors firsthand, especially for someone interested in ecology, really takes you deeper into your research. You may be at a computer when you are analyzing all of the data that you collect but you really get to go out into the world and see the things you are studying."

According to Stonefield, the accomplishments he most proud of during his time at Temple "are the research presentations that I've given."

"I've been fortunate to give poster presentations along with oral presentations at Temple Ambler, Temple Main Campus and beyond at conferences," he said. "Being able to express what I do in my research in these formats has really improved my communication skills and has improved my ability to interact with people and answer questions, which definitely is an important skill."

During his final semester, Stonefield has been "studying functional diversity of the sapling communities within the Temple Forest Observatory.

"With this research, we are examining the new generation of plants that are coming in and starting to take over the forest to see if there's really any difference between an undisturbed forest and a disturbed forest related to the saplings we are seeing now," he said. "I really love forest dynamics and forest structure. After graduating, I would like to work in forest science and study pretty much everything that I can. Getting this experience has really helped validate my perception of what I want to do with the rest of my life."

His dedication to the Field Station certainly hasn't gone unnoticed. At the Ambler Campus Student Engagement Awards Banquet held on April 30, Stonefield was presented with a Temple Ambler Field Station Distinguished Researcher Award. The award recognizes an outstanding student "who has exhibited growth as a field researcher, contributed to the Field Station's research community and mission to diversify the sciences, and has pursued excellence in science through their field research." 

Degree nearly in hand, Stonefield said his next stop is graduate school. 

"I'm in the process of reaching out to several professors and seeing where I might fit and what is available in terms of research labs and opportunities. I really would like to do something within forest dynamics, forest structure," he said. "I want to take the time to find a school and a professor that I really like in a setting where I can continue on from what I've learned and experienced with Temple and the Field Station."

Stonefield said his Temple experience has given him "great opportunities to discover things that I like and realize the things that I don't like."

"I think Temple Ambler for me throughout my whole time at Temple has provided almost a breath of fresh air. I've been able to go to Ambler, even if I'm doing other classwork or research, and it's kind of like a sigh of relief when I get on campus," he said. "I'm able to go out into the forest and be in the natural systems that I love to study in addition to interacting with the friends that I've made and be a part of a community that I really love."

His advice to other students is all about communicating.  

"Talk to your professors, go to office hours. Find out what makes you excited to learn and roll with it. Ask as many questions as you can; connect with the professors that are doing something that you find interesting," he said. "It's always better just to ask rather than wonder what could have been later. Get out there and try to meet people, try to network, and find the opportunities that might be available to you."