Welcoming our new Science Coordinator, Nameer Baker

We are excited to welcome Nameer Baker to the KBS LTER community. He joins us as the new Science Coordinator, and to get to know him better we sat him down (virtually) to answer a few questions!

What’s your research background and interests?

My background is in microbial ecology. My postdoc focused on microbes in the rhizosphere of switchgrass growing in marginal soil, and my PhD focused on litter decomposer communities in Mediterranean ecosystems.

I was originally drawn to microbes because of their ubiquity – I wanted to study problems that were facing human society, and so many of those problems center around the impacts we are having on the environment all around the world. And, wherever our impacts fall, there are microbes to respond to them! That is what initially hooked me in, particularly in the context of climate change, but I eventually realized that studying microbes and how they respond to climate change was certainly a HUGE problem but also one where the end results felt very abstract (like, improving the parameters in a global carbon-cycling model abstract). That is what has motivated me to move closer and closer to ag systems – first by taking a postdoc working on microbes that live around the roots of a promising bioenergy plant, and then really opening things up to ag systems in general by making the move to KBS and starting a position where I am responsible for keeping abreast of all the research going on at the site instead of my own little empire.

What are a few things you are most excited about in this new position?

Having my job be one that is really reliant on talking science and talking with people about their projects is something that I feel very lucky to have figured out. I always knew that lab meetings and the discussions after seminars were some of my favorite times as a scientist, so I feel that this job lets me take on more of those opportunities while cutting out a lot of the drudgery that science can otherwise entail. I also really enjoy getting to be a mentor, and so something that is an extension of that which I was not aware was going to be something I would have so much ability to take on would be our DEI efforts. There seem to be a lot of people at the LTER that would like to improve the diversity of backgrounds that we are pulling into the station, and I really get excited talking with them about the potential avenues we have to bring in more under-represented minorities, particularly as techs/grad students/postdocs and enhance their experiences at KBS. 

How has living in Michigan been so far?

Michigan has been wonderful so far! The community at KBS has been even better than we could have imagined, and it has been great to be somewhere with neighbors that know us. We definitely feel like we made the right choice not to delay our arrival once the pandemic started, and that goes both ways. California was a little easier to leave during the pandemic, and going to a place where our daughter can run around in her birthday suit has been a great change-up at the perfect time. Check back in with us in February 😉

Anything else you’d like the KBS LTER family to know about you?

I love basketball (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!), camping, and talking politics a little too much once I have established the ground is safe for it.