Meet EPA Researcher Kyle Buck
Kyle Buck is a human geographer at EPA. He works with data from the natural and social environments to determine how the two are linked.
What research do you do at EPA?
I work in the areas of human well-being and resilience, building evidence for ways to improve community health. I use maps as part of my work, but am not a map-maker, contrary to what many think of a geographer. More of what I do relates to the meaning of place and how that influences outcomes in a community. The location of a community in proximity to hazards or resources (and the health of those resources) is significant. In addition to my work in well-being and resilience, I also work with scale issues and data we use to measure communities. I build models to reflect the spatial variation within communities and assess characteristics at multiple levels of geography.
What do you like most about your research?
I really enjoy the variety of research topics I get the chance to work on. So much of the research done at EPA is linked, whether directly or indirectly, and getting the opportunity to search for and measure those links is a great challenge.
When did you first know you wanted to be a scientist?
I actually got into research later in life. I taught biology, environmental science, and engineering in a public high school for nine years before going back to school myself and getting my PhD. It was through teaching that I realized how many questions were still unanswered and the enjoyment I got from thinking about and trying to answer them. I personally had a number of questions about the links between the natural and social environments and cancer that I wanted to answer, and this drove much of my own research before coming to the EPA.
If you could have dinner with any scientist, past or present, who would you choose and what would you like to ask him or her?
I would have to pick James Watson. He is a pioneer in the field of genetics and is an integral part of both science and policy as we move forward. I really admire that he considers the ethical implications of this research and the fact that he truly loves science for the science. Second, and of equal importance, he is well known as a very blunt and honest person with a huge personality. I think this would make for some really interesting conversations revolving around the state of science in our current society and where he thinks it is heading. I would ask him what he considers the best path forward for keeping/making science accessible and interesting to everyone.
Why do you think Earth Day is important?
In my opinion there are two things that make Earth Day important. The first relates to the historic nature of the event and its push to make the natural environment a priority in the national agenda. Consideration of environmental health in policy is critical to the sustainability of our resources and the health of our communities. Earth Day, to me, is a reminder that the EPA serves as a voice for the environment and what it should mean to all of us. The second, and more locally important aspect of Earth Day, is the community awareness component. Here in Gulf Breeze, many people in the community don’t know we exist, let alone what we do. Our annual Earth Day event is a way for us to communicate with the community and let them see the important work we are doing here.
If you weren’t a geographer, what would you be doing?
I would be a teacher. I loved teaching and still miss many things about it.
Do you have any advice for students interested in your career?
As you go through school, get as much experience, both in the classroom and in the field, in as many fields of science as possible. Specialization is important, but having a broad range of experience will give you different perspectives in addition to giving insight into what field you really enjoy and want to pursue.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the researcher alone. EPA does not endorse the opinions or positions expressed.