Winter 2023 grad: Cole Koffron learned through hands-on natural resources research

Photo courtesy of Cole Koffron

Cole Koffron, who grew up in Chicago, Illinois, will be graduating this December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences and soil science. In this Q&A, Koffron describes his passion for the environment and natural resource management, how being involved in undergraduate research led him to a multitude of opportunities, his future career plans to benefit the public good, and more.

Why did you choose your major, and what did you learn along the way?
I originally chose environmental sciences with a focus on limnology because I am very passionate about the environment and resource management. I then branched out into soil sciences thanks to my professor and PI who taught me how important soil conservation is for the county and how interesting soil science is as the great integrator of the biosphere. 

What other activities were you involved in?
I have been involved in research for all of my college career, including a project funded by a student engagement grant from the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. The whole point of the study, and the reason why I wanted to do it, was to quantify stormwater from the university’s land use and help with stormwater management in the area. It was a great time and afforded me the opportunity to run around during rainfall events along the Lakeshore Path and the university collecting water (and learn invaluable skills and lessons about research). I have also been a board member of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve since I was a sophomore and have worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources the summer of 2023 on a ship on Lake Michigan taking water samples.

What are your future academic and/or career plans?
I intend to get out and work in natural resource management, hopefully in a federal or state position to directly benefit the public. Long-term I hope to eventually go back to school and get my master’s and PhD to improve my mastery of whatever subject – water quality, soil conservation, pyroecology, environmental remediation – that I land in.

Photo courtesy of Cole Koffron

What were the most valuable/meaningful college experiences you had?
The most fruitful experiences I have had as a student were the years I spent as an undergraduate researcher pursuing an independent project in stormwater quality. Although the most fun experience I have had was as part of the pyroecology class taking part on prescribed burns in my local area to benefit resource conservation (pictured).

When you think about your time here as student, what are you proud of?
I am proud of how many different skills I have learned as a student and undergraduate researcher. I think that the tools and skills I have learned will take me far in whatever environmental profession in which I end up and ensure I am best equipped to help contribute to the public good.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share with CALS students? 
If you are up for it, get involved in research as quickly as possible, the skills and lessons you learn on hand will be exceptionally valuable. Always look for and lease apartments early. Meet good roommates and make better friends. Reach out to the many professionals and professors that are at and around the university, it is the best way to learn what you want to do in the future, get internships, and open many other doors.