Plum worked as a lab technician in the WVU Wild Genomics Lab, keeping him extremely involved in undergraduate research. As a recipient of the George A. Myles Natural Resources Undergraduate Student Enhancement Grant and a winner of a National Science Foundation undergraduate research award, he had the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on genetics research on lake sturgeon and study chemical accumulation in a small shark species, the smooth dogfish, respectively.
Plum served as treasurer and secretary for the WVU Student Subunit of the American Fisheries Society, vice president and secretary for the WVU Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society and as a member of the WVU Chapter of Society of Conservation Biology.
With graduation now behind him, Plum intends to continue his studies by pursuing a graduate degree in marine biology and conservation. And, given that he credits his faculty mentors with much of his success, it's no surprise that "professor" – right alongside shark ecologist and marine fisheries scientist – makes the top of his list when considering his long-term goals.
Where will you be doing your graduate work?
I haven’t nailed down a graduate position quite yet. The ebb and flow of graduate assistantships changes frequently, and right now for my field they are few and far between. However, I have applied to the University of Florida and Louisiana State University, and I hope to hear back from them soon.
What is your dream job?
My dream job would be working as a shark ecologist and marine fisheries scientist at a coastal research university or research center. I like the intellectual freedom of academia, and I deeply enjoy teaching, so becoming a professor may be a path for me.
Tell us about some WVU experiences that were extremely valuable in helping you decide and/or affirm what path you wanted to pursue.
The most reaffirming and valuable experiences have always come from my involvement in undergraduate research and student organizations. I have been fortunate enough to lead four undergraduate research projects ranging from salamanders to sharks to lake sturgeon genetics, and this has really cemented research as a career path for me.
As an undergraduate student, working closely with so many different mentors has allowed me to hone my skills as a scientist. My professional organizations have also given me amazing opportunities to travel and present this research all over the country.
How did you use the support from the Myles Student Enhancement Grant?
I was very fortunate to have received this award, and it allowed me to pay for materials to conduct genetics research on lake sturgeon in a river in Ontario, Canada. Sturgeon face many threats to their populations worldwide, and this research will help inform fisheries scientists to better manage the genetics of this population.
Tell us about your experience as an intern with NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center.
In the summer of 2015 I received an undergraduate research award from the National Science Foundation to study chemical accumulation in a small shark species, the smooth dogfish. My research was performed at NOAA's Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. My responsibilities were varied and ever-changing, but it was focused mainly on learning and keeping up with the latest science on this topic, as well as dissecting sharks and analyzing their chemical signatures.
I also helped lead day-long research cruises to sample sharks in the Delaware Bay, and organize and record data for graduate students. Even though my passion for shark research is immeasurable, the other interns and the people I met at this internship were easily the best part. I now have an amazing and diverse network of friends all across the country, who I am still close with today.
What advice do you have for soon-to-be seniors?
Be involved! It is not too late! The WVU Wildlife and Fisheries family I’ve found here is irreplaceable, and I met each and every one of them as a direct result of my involvement in research and student organizations.