How did you get interested in biology? As a child, I was extremely interested in biology and space. I read every non-fiction biology and astronomy book in my elementary school’s library, before moving onto the public library. The concepts of both fields amazed and continue to amaze me to this day. They have greatly shaped my perspective on life.
Do you have one person who was influential in your choice to study biology/ecology? My high school AP environmental science teacher Mr. Colmenares. He brought great enthusiasm to the classroom and took us out to the field to participate in field science.
Did your family expect you to attend college? College and education is an important part of Nigerian culture, so I had the expectation to attend college.
Do you feel that you see people like you in your future career? No, there are very few black scientists in the geosciences in general and very few in astrobiology.
Did that impact your choice? I have always been a stubborn idealist, so it hasn’t stopped me.
What kind of research have you been involved in? During a summer REU program at the University of Texas, I investigated fire ant ecology. Particularly, I was investigating a possible behavioral fever in fire ants as a response to infection with a host-specific microsporidia pathogen.
Tell us about a memorable field experience. The summer after my freshman year I worked in a government mosquito biocontrol lab. As part of our work, we wet out into the field twice a week to collect mosquito traps around the city. About half way through the summer, a deer died right next to one of our traps. Most people would move the trap or work quickly. Instead, my boss has us dig around through the corpse every time we stopped there, so I could learn about the complexity and phases of decomposition insect ecology.
What is your favorite organism? A three-toed sloth because they remind me to slow down and enjoy life.
What topic in biology/ecology fascinates you the most? Origins of life and astrobiology.
What has been the most challenging about becoming a field biologist? Trying to make sense of very “muddy” data in ecology can be quite difficult.
What is on your biology/ecology “bucket list”? The Mongolian steep and Antarctica are two places I want to visit the most. Mongolia for the rugged plains and beautiful central Asian landscape. Antarctica to study microbial systems in extreme environments.
What is your favorite natural area in Oklahoma to visit? The beauty of Turner Falls and the surrounding area is very difficult to beat.
Besides studying biology, what else do you love to do? I have a deep passion for many things, but music is certainly high on that list.