To Know is to Grow: Jennifer Fill A Post-doctoral student at the university of florida

Dr. Jennifer (Jen) Fill is a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Florida’s (UF) Crandall Fire Ecology Lab, which focuses on studying and understanding how prescribed burns affect forests, plant growth, and conservation.

Research performed by this lab and Dr. Fill takes place at the Austin Cary Forest located in Gainesville, Florida. This forest consists of over 2,000 acres of land that is specifically dedicated to teaching, research, and extension.

As a child, Fill loved Nancy Drew and all things mystery. She believes that her passion for solving mysteries is what jumpstarted her passion for the outdoors, forests, and snakes.

As an undergraduate student, Fill stumbled into an introduction to fire ecology course where she had the opportunity to assist in conducting prescribed burns. For Fill, this was a life changing opportunity. This experience led her to an internship where she tracked snakes through the prairies of Kansas.

“I was basically playing hide and go seek with snakes,” recalled Fill.

When it came time for Fill to begin her Ph.D. program, she knew exactly what she wanted to study: snakes and fire. During her doctoral studies at the University of South Carolina, Fill researched southeastern U.S. pine savanna ecology, restoration and management, and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes.
“I must be really lucky or something, but spending one full year, everyday outside in these gorgeous savannas was just amazing,” said Fill.

When Fill completed her Ph.D., she realized that she still wanted to learn more. This realization led her to complete post-doctoral research in Africa where she studied invasive pine savannas.

In her current work with the Crandall Fire Ecology Lat at UF, Fill is examining how fire affects the seeding of wire grass, and how fire's relationship with the grasses contributes to conservation efforts. This research project is underway, and results are forthcoming.

Fill remains passionate about the outdoors, forests and snakes, even after studying them for several years. Fill’s motivation to continue conducting research and learning more about forestry stems from her passion for learning.

“You know a lot about something, or you think you know a lot about something and then, you keep studying it, and your ideas can change, as you continue to get more information. That is what motivates me the most," said Fill.

Throughout all of Fill’s experiences, she continues to hold conservation at the forefront of all of her research. Fill defines conservation as “caring about the environment.” She believes that there are several different ways to define specific conservation goals, but in order to achieve these goals it is imperative that people have an open mind are willing to discuss these goals with people who are not aware.

Michaela Shaw, a UF Agricultural Communication graduate student, created this project.

Selfie with a scientist: Dr. Jennifer Fill (left), Michaela Shaw (right)