Waring “Buck” Trible is a self-proclaimed lover, of all things, fire ants. He credits UGA, the Odum School of Ecology and the entomology department for “enabling my habit” of studying the misunderstood insect. “My dream of becoming a scientist may now be a little more realistic due to the incredible nurturing of this school,” he says.
James Monroe High School
B.S.in ecology, B.S. entomology
University highlights, achievements and awards:
It’s just ants, man. I fell in love with the little insects sometime between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. Since then, I’ve been working in a handful of labs, done some research abroad and spent a lot of time thinking about a group of bugs which—I promise—are a lot cooler than you may realize. This school has treated me quite well and certainly enabled my habit. Things changed fast, from living in Creswell Hall and applying to the Honors program my freshman year, to winning the Midterm Foundation Fellowship my sophomore year and then a Goldwater Scholarship my junior year. I don’t know how it happened, and I can’t possibly deserve it, but I just have to say thanks. It has been good. My dream of becoming a scientist may now be a little more realistic due to the incredible nurturing of this school.
I’ve been working in Ken Ross’s Fire Ant Lab for some time, which is great fun.
Family Ties to UGA:
I don’t think I have any family ties to UGA.
I chose to attend UGA because...
the Odum School of Ecology sealed the deal. When I came down to visit, I distinctly remember talking to Misha Boyd and Jim Richardson, the faces of ecology, and falling in love with the whole deal. There were dogs running around, the turtle pond; Dr. Richardson was telling me about “charismatic megafauna”... it was groovy. I really like science, a lot, but I’m not the conventional introvert who can revel in rote memorization and many-paged lab reports. The ecology school, the University of Georgia in general and, I was later to learn, the department of entomology represented that human side to science which has completely transformed my personality.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
I guess I have to drop the nerd card eventually, so here it goes: I enjoy going to seminars. Entomology, ecology and genetics are my favorites, but I also dug (hah!) Jack Horner’s dinosaur lecture this spring and a few others that are outside of my specific interests. You get to show up and take in the summary of what’s often dozens of years of research from the man or woman who knows it best. It’s awesome. The infusion of knowledge about some subject that you may have never encountered before never fails to open up the world a little more.
When I have free time, I like...
A few friends and I have a little folk band, so it’s fun to play every week or two. I also read a lot, and I collect old video games: Mario and Pac-Man and stuff like that. I collect 1980s cartridges (mostly for the original Nintendo) then make big stacks and play dominoes. Just kidding. I treat them with respect.
The craziest thing I've done is...
One time, knowing no Spanish, I took a bus across Costa Rica and landed in a tiny town where I planned to live and research for the next month. Dictionary in hand, in single-word sentences, I managed to find a family who’d take me in. I conducted the research successfully and the ants were very cool.
My favorite place to study is...
Freshman year, my roommate and I bought a couch on Craigslist. We put up signs on the hall that said “Couch Party!!” and, when people showed up, I realized that this couch probably wasn’t big enough to warrant its own celebration. It served us well, though. I’ve had to lift that couch probably 10 times since then, dutifully toting it as I move from place to place. It’s a great little couch and I’ve certainly read many pages and drank much coffee studying in her arms. Thanks, couch. We’ve gotten through some real coursework together.
My favorite professor is...
Ken Ross and John Gittleman both hold a huge share in my future. Science is hard, and I wouldn’t have been able to sustain such a passion for it if these two people hadn’t been willing to take me in and dedicate hundreds of hours conversing, teaching and designing experiments. It’s been great.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
Chucky Dee, or, as some may call him, Charles Darwin. The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is, unarguably, the coolest thing ever. It’s crazy how much of my favorite stuff—kin selection, weird genetics, bizarre cases of convergence—was completely unknown back in 1882 when Darwin died. The arms races, the dancing language of bees, the symbioses between man and bacteria or ant and fungus… neat-o. I bet Darwin would be pretty stoked to learn how far we’ve come since his time and to know that he first conceived of what is now one of the most powerful and comprehensive theories in all of science.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
I just want to do science. Collect insects, maybe name a few, try and figure out what they’re doing. I’m going for it, whether I’ll fail or not.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to...
Money’s not a consideration at all? So I can feed the poor, get us off oil, and buy up all of the land that’s being destroyed? And increase the budget of scientific research 100 fold? I’d do that. I’d probably also get the new iPhone.
After graduation, I plan to...
Keep on truckin’. Hopefully I can make a career in scientific research. Now and after I graduate, I’ll keep doing whatever it takes to achieve that end. Working 80-hours a week on a Ph.D. reading arcane literature and experiencing peer review: I am ready for the tasks and at your command.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
Betty Jean Craige gave me the great honor of giving the five-minute “student response” to her amazing speech at UGA’s Founder’s Day this winter. It was neat. I’ve never had such an intelligent or attentive audience before, and it was so fun to talk about ants and crack jokes as I tried to respond to Dr. Craige’s deep message. It also was nice to see that I could convince a wide range of folks to enjoy ants rather than the ecology/science types I usually hang out with.