Brian Keel, PhD CandidateEnvironmental Studies PhD Program
Orchids Lure Forester Away from Production Forestry
After ten years as a forester at Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest, Brian Keel decided he wanted to do more to help the environment. There was more to do and more to learn about the environmental problems we face today, Brian said. I wanted to get away from production forestry and try to solve some of these problems. A resident of Shushan, New York, Brian decided to enroll in AUNE’s Doctoral Program in Environmental Studies both because its course schedule allowed him to continue working full time, but also because the program offered him the support and academic freedom to develop and nurture his own area of interest.
I was able to grow and think and learn and search until I found my niche. That is the essence of Antioch, Brian said. I don’t think I would have been able to function as well in any other academic setting.
The niche he finally settled upon was orchids. Brian said he became fascinated with orchids when he began to explore the relationship between them and a type of fungus that interacts with their root systems. From that entry into the world of orchids, Brian developed a concept he calls assisted migration and says it could very well be crucial to the survival of some orchid species whose current habitat is threatened by climate change and human-induced degradation and fragmentation.
Very little is known about wild orchids, Brian said. It turned out to be a fascinating field. That’s why I’m moving into it. You could say I’m a conservation biologist specializing in orchid conservation.