Teaching and Researching as a Learning Experience

December 10, 2018

Phoebe Pan ’20

Nathaniel Wehr
Nathaniel Wehr ’16
Photo credit: Courtesy of Nathaniel Wehr

As a teaching and research assistant at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Nathaniel Wehr ’16 is studying environmental management through classroom instruction and hands-on approaches.  

Nathaniel Wehr ’16 is pursuing graduate work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM), and his approach to learning extends beyond the average role of the classroom student.

In addition to taking classes, Wehr spends his time teaching and conducting research in the field. During the past few years, Wehr has taught courses at UHM on topics ranging from vertebrate zoology to wildlife ecology and management. Earlier this semester, Wehr also presented a seminar at Oberlin, titled Feral Pigs, Soil Macroinvertebrates, and Soil Microbes: Understanding Invasion in Hawaiian Forests, which was sponsored by the biology department and the Montie-Block Lecture Series.

On the research side of his work, Wehr focuses on gathering data in the field. “I often spend extensive periods of time, especially during the summer, on the Island of Hawaii, conducting fieldwork to collect data associated with these projects,” he says. “This means hiking through remote rainforests in Hawaii while managing a small team of technicians. The research also involves a lot of computer work, which I do in my office when I’m not in class.”

At Oberlin, one of the game-changing moments that influenced Wehr’s career interests was a winter-term project that he completed at the Audubon Center of the Northwoods, a learning center that provides environmental educational experiences and outreach programs.

Wehr’s project gave him the chance to meet many university, state, and federal employees who worked in nature and wildlife conservation. He used that experience as a starting point to begin pursuing similar types of jobs within the field of environmental management.

2015 men's varsity baseball team holding "NCAC Conference Champions" sign
Oberlin College Men's Varsity Baseball Team 2015 NCAC Champions
Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Wehr '16

Additionally, as a former member of the varsity baseball team, Wehr expresses gratitude for his athletic experiences.

“Everything in science requires working with a large team of individuals who all have different roles and perspectives, just like on a baseball team,” he says. “Plus, being a varsity athlete required good time management while maintaining focus and a rigorous work ethic. I would definitely like to thank the coaches and teammates I had on the baseball team for their contributions to my current success.”

Wehr hopes that his research on feral pigs, a non-native invasive species in Hawaii and much of the world, will be useful to land managers who must address the species’ environmental impact and role in recreational hunting.

Wehr will graduate from UHM soon and is applying to various jobs as a wildlife conservation technician. In the long-term, he plans to apply to PhD programs in wildlife ecology and management, with the ultimate goal of becoming a professor and pursuing a career in academia.


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