Alumni Spotlight: Travis Foster, ‘08

This week’s Alumni Spotlight shines on Travis Foster, UMM class of 2008. Travis is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and currently lives in Christchurch, New Zealand where he is a PhD Candidate at the University of Canterbury.


Tell us a little about what you are doing now:

I am in a three-year research PhD program, studying the mechanisms of habitat cascades and foundation species through experimentation and observation in the Christchurch estuary. A habitat cascade is basically a ripple-effect. An estuary clam comes up to the surface of the sediment to eat, a seaweed juvenile drops down and starts to grow on the clam shell’s surface, this new habitat attract snails, crabs, and other species. The shells of the snail on the surface of the seaweed attached to the clam then provide more habitat for more seaweeds to attach to, providing even more habitat. The effects of all these seaweed-animal interactions are not well studied, and I am hoping to fill in some of those gaps in knowledge through my research.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?

Focus is one, really concentrating on what needs to be done and getting it done in a timely manner. Having experience in the field is another. Being able to understand what is needed to work in the field-setting, and having experience in working in all weather conditions really is a valuable asset to have.

Do you have any advice for current students at UMM?

Study what you love. You’ll be much happier, and it won’t really feel like work eventually. Work hard doing what you love, but also remember to take some time and enjoy your after-work time as well.

How did your time at UMM prepare you for what you are doing now?

UMM gave me an excellent start to my scientific career. The marine biology program really got me thinking scientifically, asking questions, and observing the world around me. I think going out into the field, not just once or twice but all through the year, really made a huge difference. Actually going out and being able to see the plants and animals that we were learning about in class, seeing where and how they lived and interacted in their natural environment was a huge step-up that helped put me into the line-of-work I am currently pursuing.

How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?

UMM has impacted my life in so many ways. It helped me narrow my focus on what I wanted to study (and eventually, a career). It gave me many great friends and peers that I am still in contact with, and the experiences I had at UMM in both course-work and outside the classroom, also helped me mature into the person and scientist I am today. I know it sounds cheesy, but I don’t think I would be where I am today if I had gone anywhere else for college.