Matt Turnley ’20 gained valuable insight into the field of wildlife conservation with three unique Exploreships during his time at Simpson College. He took part in Simpson’s Ecological Research Program and interned with both the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado and the Konza Prairie Biological Station in his home state of Kansas. The former two-sport student-athlete’s next venture is the Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation Program at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Hometown: Manhattan, Kansas
Majors: Environmental Science and Business Management
Involvement at Simpson: Men's soccer, Men's tennis, Rotaract, Student Government Association, Sustainability Club
Exploreships at Simpson: Simpson College Ecological Research Program, The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Konza Prairie Biological Station
Graduate Program: Brigham Young University Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation Program
What are your career plans after your time in the wildlife and wildlands conservation program at BYU?
Currently, I'm planning to pursue a career in academia. Being able to teach and study wildlife biology for a living would be a dream come true (fingers-crossed I survive grad school first).
What attracted you to the program at BYU?
A few reasons. Research wise, the opportunities that BYU and the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences offered immediately piqued my interest. I've spent this summer chasing after newborn deer and elk — yes, that's a real job. Additionally, all of the people I met on my visit (professors, staff, other students, etc.) were exceptionally welcoming and incredibly generous. I feel lucky to be a part of the program.
Was there a specific aspect of your Simpson Experience that confirmed your passion for wildlife?
My three summer internships certainly taught me a lot and made me realize I wanted to continue working in field biology. I gained insight into various sub-disciplines of the field (before focusing on large mammals), made important networking connections and met friends I'll keep for life. In fact, I just chatted with them via Zoom recently! I would definitely recommend summer research to anyone interested. Simpson has numerous options and can help get you connected with programs at other locations.
What kind of support did you receive from the faculty at Simpson College?
While more people than could ever be mentioned helped me over the past four years, Dr. Ryan Rehmeier (professor of biology) and Dr. Clint Meyer (associate professor of biology and environmental science) are two field-specific role models. One day, I hope to be half the professors they are (just don't tell them I said that). They wrote about a billion recommendation letters, taught fascinating classes and gave invaluable advice during countless office chats.
Professors like Dr. Jackie Brittingham (professor of biology), Dr. Lindsay Ditzler (assistant professor of chemistry & physics), Dr. Heidi Berger (associate professor of mathematics) and a whole cohort of people from the business department were also incredible influences, regardless of how many classes I took with them. Outside of the classroom, former students have been better friends/mentors than I could ever ask for — I'm looking at you, Nick Joslyn. Listing a hundred other names wouldn't make for a great response, but it's probably deserved.
What will you miss most from your time at Simpson?
Carver study sessions and my soccer/tennis teammates. Ehhh, beating Central (and my two brothers there) in anything was pretty fun, too!