Hi from the year 2011 from Robert! In the future - where you now reside - this'll be outdated!
Rob and field assistants in the Carpathian Mountains, Ukraine.
Robert and field assistants in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine, years ago.
A visiting card looked like this last time I bothered, in 2010.
Photo by Ivan Kruhlov
The info more or less still good. The next one will say maybe Vermillion Michigan, Eureka Alaska, and have a UP map in the b/g (this one is somewhere in deepest Siberia, from an old USSR top map).

Who I am:

I'm a geographer.

Sometimes I tell people I'm a botanist, or ecologist, or just a field scientist. Sometimes I tell people I'm a Sovietologist. Often they have their own ideas.

I'm interested in plant geography, landscape ecology, and the nature of northern areas: plants and what explains their distribution throughout northern lands, especially rare or disjunct ones.

Also anything and everything about the USSR. I'm a specialist in the nature; geography; and culture of the former USSR. That type of person used to be called a "Sovietologist" (esp. when they were trying to decipher the workings of the Soviet system to determine what they were really up to), or a "Soviet geographer" (esp. when documenting how things are there), back when there was a USSR. But now it's really difficult to tell people that... "Yeah, I'm a geographer of the former USSR, mostly Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, but the rest of the place too, and a little of the former Warsaw Pact countries and..." Anyway, it's been a while since I made any money with that.

Also interested in the 20th century history of conservation, protected nature areas (why, how, and where to make them), the geography of mountains, island biogeography, and the general geographical makeup of all northern lands (Canada, Scandinavia, Alaska, etc.)

I am, furthermore, obsessed with large lakes and their influence on their surroundings (including me). This is actually, I think, the strongest force on me (Lake Superior), like a huge unseen star that nobody can see (at least in Alaska) making a planet move erratically.

There's a small list of "additional interests" below, to which I refer you.   There are other things, too, and many secrets.

What I do:

See a once-current CV page here, doubtless now old, irrelevant, and inaccurate; much like myself and thus accurate after all.

Right now (2011; inevitably I'll neglect to update this and will be somewhere else when you read this), I work for the US Forest Service, doing a lot of fire ecology-related remote sensing, image processing, lidar, and GIS stuff plus some fieldwork. It's in Idaho, weirdly, which is a sort of torture since where I need to be is the Lake Superior country, or at least the boreal forest somewhere. But I go where I have to scrape enough money to survive.

Previously I have worked for the US National Park Service doing vegetation site studies in Yukon-Charley National Preserve, for the USDA NRCS in the same part of Alaska doing vegetation ecology on a rather ill-fated soil survey project (and also a bit on a much more 'together' project on Kodiak Island), for the World Wildlife Fund's Bering Sea-Kamchatka program in Anchorage, digging up Bering Sea regional conservation and geographical data for WWF - my job title was 'program officer', but that doesn't make much sense, so feel free to say I was a 'conservation geographer'. I was an ecologist for the US National Park Service at Denali National Park and before that at Glacier Bay National Park for a couple years, minus some travels and a little time in Athens, GA.

I was a long ago graduate student at Geography, University of Georgia, USA. My doctoral work was on the landscape conservation and natural areas connectivity in the Carpathian Mountains, Ukraine (Central Europe); read about that here. I admit, that I did all the fun part of that project but didn't finish the dissertation after I ran out of money...

My graduate and later undergraduate research was in phytogeography (the distribution of plants and the history and ecology behind it) and the geography and conservation of the USSR, Canada, and other northern lands.

Why I do it:

Because it takes me to interesting lands, in beautiful surroundings, where I frequently - but not always - enjoy pleasant weather, good food, interesting people, and strange experiences. I am not very rich, as they say, 'in the money department' from all of this, though!

Where I am from, how I got here, and where I am going:

I am from Michigan! I am proud to say I lived my first years in Lake County, which was in the 1970s (maybe now too) the poorest county in Lower Michigan (Keweenaw, in the UP, was a little poorer at the time, now it's sadly filling out with rich retired yuppies). So the first part of my life I spent wandering the woods, collecting mushrooms and berries, trying to catch salamanders and frogs, getting pinched by ants and fearing blue racers, and looking at flowers and trees. Later I lived in Ludington, where I got into bicycles, rockets, cameras, and some other stuff. Still later, in my juvenile delinquent years' (most of the 1980s), I lived the much less understandable Grand Rapids.

I spent a few summers in Vandalia, Missouri in the late 1970s.

I went to college first in Grand Rapids (ITT Technical Institute, which was actually a fairly OK technical education in industrial controls and so forth despite their sleazy for-profit "student loan harvesting" motive and predatory advertising) and nearby Allendale (Grand Valley State) before transferring to Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. Then I went to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo for a master's degree and University of Georgia for doctoral study (which I got as far as candidacy for, but fled the politics, poverty, heat, and other bullshit of to go to Alaska to get a real job).

During the CMU, WMU, and UGA years I started spending a lot of time in the USSR and 'former USSR' (which I refer to as the USSR). I went first during spring break 1991... to my mind at least, vastly more profound, exciting, fun, and carefree than any lame trip to some student vacation slum of Florida or Mexico. Over the years I spent most of my time in Minsk (Belarus), the Lake Baikal area and Orel (Russia), northwest Russia, and the Crimea and Lviv (Ukraine), with less time in the Baltics (especially Kaunas (Lithuania), Voronezh and Moscow (Russia), and the republic of Georgia.

Back to Athens, Georgia and then away from Athens - to Alaska. I had the chance to work seasonally for the Park Service in Alaska in 2002. I guess I make that sound like they contacted me and asked - they didn't, at least not until I contacted them and applied for a job first. After so many years of college and graduate school I started to wonder if I was going to be employable... this feeling was enhanced as I began to notice around me the increasingly unrealistic ideas and expectations expressed by fellow graduate students (and faculty) regarding conservation, etc. as I had experienced it in my time in the USSR where I had extensive contact with actual botanists, conservationists, ecologists, geographers, and other doing the work I wanted also to do, as well as the decreasing amount of actual experience new faculty had in the fields they professed to professor. It seemed that grant record and general ass-kissing as graduate students was what counted, not actual experience solving problems and creating knowledge within the real-world constraints that future scientists would likely experience. In short, i didn't think they had enough grounding in reality. I began to wonder if I would also appear to know little of the actual field i claimed to be an expert in when it came time to try and do so. So to see. I applied for a seasonal biotech job at Glacier Bay and haven't looked back (much) since.

In fact, I've left Alaska for good since then - three times now, most recently in 2010, and even moved back to the UP for good once (I made it for 6 months to the day before I had to go back to Alaska again to make a modest living). I suspect I'll be back.

Important things:

I have a great Cat (Cat ought always be capitalized is I remember) named Mr. Q (Q is the whole surname), who I adoped from the Orphanage in July 2011, and one named Fran who joined us, semi-retiring from his career as Barn Cat, later that summer. I lost my best friend, the perfect Cat Mr. Whiskers, in February 2011. He'd love Mr. Q and Fran. There are a few photos of them here.

My Cats and I have two little estates of land - each closer to ghost towns than anywhere else and well off the 'grid': 14 acres in the pinelands near Lake Superior at Vermillion, Michigan, and 20 acres of high boreal forest at Eureka, Alaska. There are wolves, coyotes, foxes, deer, bobcats, and moose at Vermillion, and the same (minus deer and replace bobcats with lynx) at Eureka. Blueberries at Vermillion, and lingonberries at Eureka.


Original thought, autonomy, effort with purpose, civility, individuality (even eccentricity!), creativity, curiosity (maybe not a value - not sure), thoughtfulness, quiet, solitude. (All of these also the attributes of cats, by the way). Also good bargains.   Levity, irreverence, iconoclasm - also good. But see disclaimer by Ovid, below.

Shimano or Suntour: Suntour.
Ed Abbey or Annie Dillard: Ed Abbey.
Digicam or 35mm: 35mm.
DIY or store-bought: DIY.
Budweiser or Hamm's: Hamm's.
Safety of the modern world or Hide in cave: Hide in cave.
Typewriter or komputer: Typewriter.
Marlin or SKS: SKS.
Record player or i-tube phone device-omputer: Record player.
Dinner party or beer fire: Beer fire
Television or book: Book.
Politically sensitive yuppie or Crazed fanatic: Crazed fanatic.
Fizzy mineral water or unfizzy: fizzy.
New or used: Used.
Masking tape or band-aid: Masking tape.
Business suit or naked: Naked.
Book or 'tablet komputer': go to hell.
PBR or Bud Lite: Hamm's.
$6 wine or $30 wine: $6 wine.
Lada or lexus: Lada.
Facebook or twizzler: Neither.

County sherif or police-dog: police-dog.

Other interests:

Photographia - see pictures here.

bicycles - best ca. 1978-1983


Further interests can be discerned from the CV, the research, the links, etc. Last resort-ask me in person.


Video meliora, proboque; deteriora sequor   
[I see and approve better things, but follow worse]   
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last modified 12.2011

Embassy of Robert