Spending 20 hours digging recyclables out of trash cans isn’t Mark Milby’s idea of fun, but it certainly demonstrates his commitment to sustainability. The senior ecology major helped start the UGA Gameday Recycling program, which last year alone collected more than 20 tons of recyclables with the support of more than 50 volunteers. He’s involved in a large-scale global warming study, has worked with a non-profit conservation organization in Ecuador and has conducted research at the university’s campus in Costa Rica. His plan is to live simply and to do as much good as he can for people and the environment.
B.S. in ecology
University highlights, achievements and awards:
The “cherry on top” of my time at UGA has been my experiences in Latin America. I spent this past summer in the Ecuadorian cloud forest designing tours for a conservation non-profit’s shade-grown coffee program; last summer I explored Costa Rica with UGA’s Ecology Research Maymester. Before that I took the greatest road trip I’ll ever take with UGA’s Interdisciplinary Field Program. This past year I was somehow bestowed the Morris K. Udall Foundation Scholarship, which flew me to Tucson, Arizona to network with amazing environmental leaders from across the nation; it more than prepared me to co-lead the Ecology Club and the Go Green Alliance, two large student organizations advocating a more sustainable campus and student body. This spring my friends and I were presented with the Richardson-Golley Undergraduate Citizenship Award for our efforts with the organizations and the UGA Gameday Recycling program. I have also had the honor of studying under a number of respected ecologists; currently, I am involved in a large-scale climate change study under Dr. Jacqueline Mohan, which I hope complete this year.
Harrison High School
I chose to attend UGA because...
... I fell in love with UGA’s campus after several marching band camps during high school summers. Even though I never had a clue where I was on the huge campus, I was overwhelmed by the amount of opportunity available to those with motivation. Add the lovely Ecology building, its inviting faculty and staff, and the HOPE scholarship to that, and I was sold.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
... I love to make trouble. At least, that how my friends and I like to think of sorting trash at football games, persuading students and administration to change their consumption habits, and generally plotting new ways to make our campus more sustainable. UGA offers an enormous number of student organizations to get involved with, and I spend the majority of my free time with several of them, meeting new friends, making connections, and exploring corners of our campus’ diversity.
When I have free time, I like...
…working at Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela, a Catholic outreach and ministry located in the Pinewood Estates North mobile home park in Athens, helping the sisters or tutoring the children. Their dedication to the neediest of people constantly inspires me. I teach English to day laborers through the Economic Justice Coalition with other students whose tremendous compassion makes them much more amazing than me. Volunteering in such communities takes a patience, selflessness, and humility that I hope to one day learn; such a classroom may be much more important than any class I take on campus.
The craziest thing I've done is...
… help start the UGA Gameday Recycling program. I’ll never forget our first season, running around like crazy for 20 hours straight digging bottles out of trash cans. My best friends and I would work all morning putting out and collecting bins, then stand in front of Sanford’s gates like human trash cans as the 90,000+ game day horde streamed past. Sometime well after dark we would collapse on the Myers Quad, covered in beer, our hands and legs cut on broken glass. It was a wild ride but media attention, such as radio, Internet, and Atlanta Journal Constitution coverage, as well as large donations from several organizations made it completely worth it. This year was a bit more organized and the consistent support of more than 50 volunteers every game made it a lot easier to collect well over 20 tons of recyclables!
My favorite place to study is...
... the Science Library. It’s quiet, the reference staff is great, and it has all the right tools. Its central location facilitates in-between-class visits and Snellibrations (late-night Snelling Dining Hall runs). I would say the Ecology building, but I can’t count how many times I’ve sat with an open book and instead just talked to friends and interesting people as they go by.
My favorite professor is...
… Jim Richardson. He and Misha Boyd are the undergraduate ecology advisors. They’re the reason I entered the ecology program three years ago and the reason I’m going to make it through. Dr. Richardson has taught introductory ecology (ECOL 3500) for quite some time; his teaching style is dynamic and inviting and he has never once turned a student needing help away from his door. While I sometimes fell victim to the snooze button and his 8 a.m. class time, his clear and uniquely taught lectures always kept me interested. After class, you may find him and Ms. Boyd with students in the ecology building lounge, happily counseling students in not just the next semester’s classes, but life in general.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
... my grandmother Marilyn, a pioneering biostatistician (one of the first women in her field) from UC Berkeley. I would like nothing more than to take her for a walk around campus and show her how I too plan to dedicate my life to science. My belief that she would be proud of me is a major driving force in my life.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
... start my own conservation non-profit. For years I have dreamed of teaming up passionate scientists and policy makers to conserve the world’s remaining biodiversity hotspots while improving the local quality of life. Our organization would utilize local knowledge and talents to create a sustainable operation that addresses environmental and social justice. What could be better?
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
...spending a week at the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve in Costa Rica through the UGA Ecology Research Maymester. I’ve been spoiled many times by UGA’s amazing study abroad opportunities, but this place stood out. An absolute reserve is just what it sounds like—no one is allowed in, except researchers. At the electricity-less San Miguel Biological Station we left as small a footprint as possible while studying an exceedingly natural place—wildlife that has rarely seen humans. Near the end of our stay, unceasing rain hammered the station day in and day out and even prevented us from leaving the peninsula. Without electricity, we were oblivious to the fact that powerful tropical storm Alma had just made record-breaking landfall on Nicaragua to the north!