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Jeff Skousen

Jeff Skousen standing in front of miscanthus gigantus.


I work with disturbed lands and polluted soils and water. My focus is to develop and apply methods to minimize damages before and during mining and to reclaim these and other disturbances like highway building, oil and gas extraction and flooding.

I’m continually amazed by the diversity of natural ecosystems and the resiliency of plants. Most plants can adapt to harsh conditions and thrive when it seems they shouldn’t. I wish we (humans) could be as resilient.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

An optometrist. I grew up on large farms in Oregon and thought I didn’t want to work so hard and figured an optometrist or dentist would be an easy job.

What year in school was your favorite and why?

Fourth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Grieff, was a violinist and she knew I played the piano and we played duets at a couple of functions. I got straight A’s.


What is something new you're learning?

Mostly patience and better acceptance of others. But really, I’ve always loved to learn about world history and events that shaped cultures. Both tie closely to natural resources in those places and their use and abuse. My travels to other countries have heightened those interests.

What's one class you wish you had taken in college?

Well, I was a double major in Range Science/Agronomy and Music, so I took a lot of extra courses to get both degrees. So, similar to the last answer, I wish I had taken classes in world history and gained a greater appreciation of countries and people.

If you could go back to school, what would you study?

When I started college, I began as a business major (boring), but I took a class in Ecology and Field Biology in 1978, which incidentally used a textbook written by Robert Leo Smith, a professor at West Virginia University. For me, the light turned on and suddenly I realized that all the plants and animals were sorted across the landscape based on climate, soils and water. It all made sense! What a revelation! I quickly changed my major and have been continually studying and amazed by nature since then.

What's a dream you have?

To visit areas in all seven continents. I’ve yet to be in South America or Africa, and there are many other places in Europe and Asia I’d like to visit.

What did you learn from 2020?

There is more to life than my job. The pandemic allowed me to work from home, teach online, write, finish a book, but I was also able to work on my farm, fix a stream crossing, cut grapevines in the forest, repair roads, rebuild a clavichord and a harpsichord, learn to play the accordion, play the piano more, talk more frequently to my kids and read.



Just for Fun

Currently reading: Frontier Stories Vol. 2 by Louis L'Amour

Most adventurous food you've tasted: Turtle head in China. (It was rubbery.)

Favorite band in college: Chicago

Dogs or cats? Dogs