Meet Our Experts:
An Interview with Greg Goldsmith
National Geographic grantee Greg Goldsmith is an ecologist studying the impacts of climate change on the world’s tropical forests. Greg will join the Costa Rica middle school expedition this summer.
What is your favorite part of your job as an ecologist?
My favorite part of being an ecologist is all of the interesting places that I get to visit. I love meeting new people, trying new foods, going for a hike, and exploring what is around the next corner.
How would you describe the field of tropical ecology?
Ecology is about trying to make sense of patterns that we see in nature. In tropical environments, we’re particularly focused on understanding the patterns that we see in biodiversity: Why are there so many species in the tropics? How do they interact and co-exist with each other? Why do some species live in some places, but not others? Answering these questions is really important for conservation!
What is your job like day-to-day?
What I love about my job is that no two days are the same. One day I am writing computer code, the next day I am measuring trees in the rainforest. The day after that, I am building a new piece of equipment or preparing a speech. Being an ecologist involves lots of different activities; it is hard to be bored!
What has been your most exciting project with National Geographic?
Canopy in the Clouds. You can check it out here: www.canopyintheclouds.com – I am really excited about my newest project, but I can’t quite spill the details. You’ll have to wait until the summer…
What is an important lesson you have learned throughout your travels and work as a scientist?
Expect the unexpected. The most fun and rewarding experiences I have had as a scientist were the ones that were unplanned.
What is your connection to Costa Rica?
I have been exploring Costa Rica’s tropical forests for over a decade – no matter where my work takes me as a scientist, I always seem to find my way back. I think it was love at first sight.
What aspect of Costa Rica are you most excited about introducing students to?
In no particular order: Ticos (nickname for Costa Rican people), tropical forests (so much to discover), and Salsa Lizano (delicious sauce that goes on any food).
Do you have a favorite place to explore in Costa Rica?
Too many favorites to name! I will never get tired of going to Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Volcanoes, forests, waterfalls, bubbling mud pots, and some of the most incredible wildlife I have ever seen. Students traveling with me this summer will get a taste of Rincon de la Vieja in many of the places we’ll visit….
What advice would you give to aspiring young students?
You don’t need to wait to be a scientist. There are plenty of ways for you to contribute to science now! You can volunteer to collect data on invasive plants with scientists from your nearest science museum, identify digital images of animals online for conservation projects, or join a local water monitoring project.
What were you most passionate about as a teenager?
Bicycles and skis.
Do you have a hero or mentor?
Nalini Nadkarni. She is amazing. Nalini’s incredible passion for making the world a better place by connecting people to nature inspires me. You can learn about her here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3wMBOP-Z3c
Do you have any advice for our students heading out on a National Geographic Student Expedition this summer?
Take lots of pictures, but remember to stop and experience your trip through all your senses: the flavors of the food, the smell of the forest, and the way the sand feels beneath your feet