As First Siccama Lecturer, Duguid Aims To Get More Yale Students into the Field

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

marlyse duguid in field Marlyse Duguid leads a field tour at Yale Myers Forest.
The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) has appointed Marlyse Duguid ’10 M.F. ’16 Ph.D. the first Thomas G. Siccama Lecturer in Environmental Field Studies, a new position that emphasizes the teaching of field studies and ecology.
The endowed position, which was funded by more than $1.5 million in private contributions from F&ES alumni and friends, will ensure that future students benefit from hands-on instruction in environmental and field studies, natural history, soils, and local flora and fauna.
Duguid, who completed her Ph.D. in forest ecology last year, is a former Research Coordinator for the Yale School Forests. In addition to her master’s and doctoral degrees from F&ES she earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Connecticut.
marlyse duiguid field
In addition to teaching field-based courses, she will develop and lead a summer field ecology program for undergraduate and masters students and oversee a research fellowship program intended to support student research at the School Forests. 

She began her new role this month.
“All of us at the School are thrilled to have Marlyse on board both teaching and engaged with the School Forest,” said Mark Ashton, the Morris K. Jesup Professor of Silviculture and Forest Ecology and Director of School Forests, who chaired the search committee. “We are so lucky to get her.”
Duguid, who will work with faculty and other members of the community to develop courses and the research program, says that much of her teaching will be focused on field training.
“Getting students outside as much as possible is the one thing that everyone agrees is the most important part of this position,” she said. “You always have to balance theoretical and applied aspects when you’re teaching ecology or field studies. But when possible these courses can really complement the more theoretical courses here.”
She says the program will offer valuable skills and opportunities for a range of students — not just those studying forestry and ecology.
“An important legacy of the Forestry School is that it always sent students outside to learn about the natural world,” she added. “The School has grown so much and there are students in all these other fields now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have courses that complement those fields…For example, it’s also really important for [environmental management] students to have a strong basis in field ecology, especially if they’re going to go out and do policy or conservation work after they graduate.”
“Nothing inspires students quite like getting them out in the field, and this position will really strengthen our ability to offer that opportunity to all of our students,” said F&ES Dean Indy Burke. “And in Marlyse, someone who has a track record of successfully engaging students in the field and who also likes to get her hands dirty, we have found the perfect person to fill this important role.”
The endowed position is named in honor of Thomas Siccama, a revered professor of forest ecology who spent more than 40 years at F&ES. His field lessons in the forests and landscapes of New England were a defining part of life for generations of F&ES and Yale College students.
Beloved for his sense of humor and straight-forward manner, Siccama was also considered one of the preeminent experts on the forest ecosystems of the northeastern U.S., publishing more than 120 research papers and developing an encyclopedic knowledge of the region’s soils and plants, geography and surface geology.
Getting students outside as much as possible is the one thing that everyone agrees is the most important part of this position.
— Marlyse Duguid, Thomas G. Siccama Lecturer
Many former students recall days spent in the field with Siccama, trailing him as he hiked through wooded landscapes, describing the surrounding flora and how the natural systems worked.
Although he retired in 2006, Siccama was still leading the School’s urban MODs summer orientation program when Duguid arrived as a first-year master’s student in the summer of 2008. After she completed a plant identification exercise in just 15 minutes, well ahead of the three-hour allotment, Siccama suggested, “OK, let’s hang out and talk about plants.”
“I never even took any courses with him, but it was obvious to me why people had such important connections with him and why he was so valuable to the School,” she recalled.
“I’m not Tom, but I’m hoping to take the best parts of his legacy and really integrate them into the School. And, for me, that includes taking students outside and letting them get their hands dirty, literally and figuratively, so they can see how things really work.”
Duguid says she is humbled by the opportunity to create from scratch a new program at a School that already has such a rich legacy, and by the fact that the position was funded by more than 170 alumni and friends of the School.
“It’s been inspiring to see how many people really reached out to make this possible.”
– Kevin Dennehy    203 436-4842