Caleb Dysthe has grown fungi in petri dishes, drilled holes in tree branches to find bark beetles, and cleaned mouse cages, all as an undergraduate student at the University of Montana. As a high school student in Sheridan, Wyoming, he didn’t even think he’d go to college. But after five years in the workforce and starting a family, he decided he was ready to learn.
He came to UM as a Russian major because he’d been to Latvia on a high school student exchange. But during his first semester here he discovered the Ecological Restoration program. He went to talk to program director Cara Nelson and switched his major that same day.
Caleb found mentor Ryan Bracewell, a PhD student in the College of Forestry and Conservation, in much the same way. He needed a controversial topic to present on in his Intro to Public Speaking class and chose mountain pine beetle. After reading several papers about the insect that’s eating millions of acres of western forest, he realized that the author, Diana Six, is a professor here. He met with her to talk about career opportunities in forest management and she said “Hey, my PhD student, Ryan, needs a volunteer to help him in the lab.” Caleb starting volunteering in the beetle lab, eventually becoming a paid technician. He followed Bracewell into Jeff Good’s lab, in the Division of Biological Sciences, where he works with the mice for researchers who are studying evolution through genetics.
Caleb credits this connection for much of his success. “Ryan has been my biggest mentor,” he says. “He’s helped me to get scholarships and papers published and I’ve learned more from him than anyone here at UM.”
Caleb graduated with a degree in Ecological Restoration-Terrestrial option. He received the Montana Institute on Ecosystems Research Experience for Undergraduates, an Irene Evers Competitive Undergraduate Research Scholarship, was nominated for an Outstanding Student Leader Award, and received the Howard C. Lee Memorial Scholarship from the CFC. Caleb was president of the student chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration in 2013.
Caleb now works as the lead eDNA technician at the National Genomics Center.