UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Joy Zedler, March 31, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:54 - Early life and education

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And, uh, I would just like to start by asking you to review a little bit about your early upbringing and, uh, what it was that prompted you to become an ecologist.

Segment Synopsis: Zedler describes growing up on a farm in South Dakota and attending a one-room schoolhouse. She discusses her experience at Augustana College where she majored in biology and completed a secretarial program. She describes her work as a secretary for the biology department while in college and the impact of her mentors in the department, Sven Froiland and professor Dilwyn Rogers, on her decision to go to graduate school. Zedler decided on the University of Wisconsin after being offered a position as a teaching assistant. Zedler states that pursuing a career in sciences was not a problem for women at the time.

Keywords: Farm; Sioux Falls; South Dakota

00:08:25 - Graduate school at the University of Wisconsin

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, okay so you, uh, went to Wisconsin, and what was it like getting settled there...

Segment Synopsis: Zedler worked as a teaching assistant while pursuing her Ph.D at the University of Wisconsin. She describes the ease of being a woman in the sciences despite the existence of an "old boys network" that is still present today. However, she does mention feeling intimidated in her wildlife ecology class when the professor announced to the class that there was a woman present. Zedler talks about working under Orie Loucks. She describes the encouragement of another graduate student, Paul Zedler, whom she later married.

Keywords: Botany; discrimination; dissertation; sexism; women in science

00:12:14 - University of Missouri

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Paul was hired at the University of Missouri to work with Glenn Goff...

Segment Synopsis: Zedler talks about going to the University of Missouri after her husband was offered a postdoctoral fellowship there. She describes teaching herself aquatic biology and phycology (the study of algae) after being offered a job teaching those classes at the University of Missouri. She then talks about her resulting shift to focus on aquatic research despite completing her dissertation on old-field succession. She describes her dissertation and her close mentorship by the prominent ornithologist Frances Hamerstrom, whom she lived with during her studies. Zedler mentions that she and her husband later left the University of Missouri due to the effects of Glenn Goff's Vietnam protests on the dynamics of their department.

Keywords: Vietnam protests; forestry; prairie; salt marsh; wetlands

00:19:08 - San Diego State University

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Then when I went to try and find a position at San Diego State, they had an opening for an aquatic biology course...

Segment Synopsis: Zedler describes her 29 years at San Diego State University where her husband initially got a tenure track position and she worked part time for three years. Zedler talks about being offered a tenure track job herself, but she mentions her frustration when she was delayed promotion because she took maternal leave. She describes how she wasn't able to make decisions about her own career because others didn't expect women to have careers and also talks about having to adapt and find unoccupied niches to be successful. She talks about how she founded that Pacific Estuarine Research Laboratory (PERL) in 1986. She describes PERL's success in engaging students and mitigating wetland damage caused by development.

Keywords: Southern California Edison Nuclear Power Plant; University of California, Davis (UC-Davis); coastal warming; discrimination; ecology; esturary; graduate students; maternal leave; salt marsh ecologist; sexism; women in the workforce

Subjects: esturary; salt marsh ecologist

00:28:54 - History of Restoration Ecology and Evolution of work at San Diego

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well Before we go there, uh, restoration ecology was beginning about this time--or, how would you characterize the history of restoration ecology...

Segment Synopsis: Zedler describes her decision to not be involved in the founding of professional organizations related to restoration. She talks about her internal conflict between the pragmatic side of ecological restoration and the socially oriented arguments for restoration (people buying into restoration). Zedler highlights the major milestones of the Pacific Estuarine Research Laboratory (PERL), emphasizing adaptive restoration. She describes PERL's role in documenting and working to mitigate the impacts of highways, human crossing and disruption, garbage, off-road vehicles, and freshwater influx on estuaries. She talks about restoring salt marsh-tidal plain interaction and the benefit of long-term studies, including some that were more than 30 years. She mentions her decision to not promote her research sites as a Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) site due to lack of resources and staff.

Keywords: California Sea Grant; Curtis Prairie; John Thompson; Long-terms Ecological Research (LTER) site; Los Penasquitos Lagoon; National Science Foundation; Natural Estuary Preserve; Pacific decadal oscillation; Sea Grant program; Topographic heterogeneity; prairie restoration; wetland restoration

00:41:09 - Move to the University of Wisconsin and the Environmental Studies Institute

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Then you see the--you have the opportunity for a seminar in Madison, and, uh, before you know it, you have the opportunity to go there..

Segment Synopsis: Zedler describes being hired at the University of Wisconsin as the Aldo Leopold Professor of Restoration Ecology. She talks about the developed of restoration ecology as a discipline. She describes the difficulty of getting funding for students without the money from developmental mitigation she had in San Diego. She mentions the importance of the Environmental Studies Institute (later renamed the Nelson Institute) where she had a joint appointment. Zedler emphasizes the importance of the interdisciplinary work of the Environmental Studies Institute in attracting students and creating cross-campus integration between ecologists.

Keywords: Sand County Almanac; environmentalist; farm; salt marsh

00:48:31 - Work at the University of Wisconsin

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, you were there for 18 years. How would you--if you think, looking back on those years, what were some of the major turning points or milestones that you would, uh, come to mind?

Segment Synopsis: Zedler describes her work on the problem of invasive species moving into wetlands, and she mentions the need to change people's minds about the need to protect and restore wetlands. She talks about becoming involved with the National Research Council where she served on both the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration committee and Wetland Characteristics and Boundaries committee. She chaired the committee that worked on compensating for wetland losses under the Clean Water Act. Zedler describes balancing her work on research on wetlands within the botany department and her research at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum where she studied sedge meadows. She talks about the 80 graduate students she had over her career and her efforts and assistance in helping for them to get published.

Keywords: Masters of Science (M.S.); compensatory mitigation; sedge meadows; wetlands

00:55:54 - Serving on national environmental boards

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, uh, during this time, as I recall, you became involved in The Nature Conservancy and our Environmental Defense Fund...

Segment Synopsis: Zedler talks about her experiences on the boards of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). She describes the importance of these boards in promoting environmental conservation, but she admits to disliking the constant travel. She talks about her work on the Independent Science Board of the California Bay Delta, which focused on how to divide up the water in the area between organisms in the delta, San Francisco, and southern California.

Keywords: John Sawhill; Orie Louck; environmental restoration

01:01:04 - Waubesa Wetlands

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I would like to, uh, before we stop, I would like to ask you to talk a little bit about the Waubesa Wetlands project and your book...

Segment Synopsis: Zedlers describes her involvement with the Waubesa Wetlands project that is south of Madison near the town of Dunn. She credits local retired professor, Calvin DeWitt as the leader and inspiration for protecting the Waubesa Wetland, a six square mile, relatively undisturbed wetland on the edge of Lake Waubesa. She talks about her recent book, Waubesa Wetlands: New Look at an Old Gem, which describes the ecosystem and biodiversity of the wetland. Zedler talks about her efforts to promote the Waubesa Wetlands as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention (signed by the U.S. in 1986). The nomination was still pending at the time of this interview.

Keywords: Friends of Waubesa Wetlands; Ramsar sites; deep water wells; ecosystem management project