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GRI Employee Spotlight

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Joby Czarnecki, Ph.D.

Title: Associate Research Professor
Time at GRI: 15 years
Hometown: Cherokee, Oklahoma

Q: What is your academic background?
Plant and Soil Sciences, with a little dash of GIS and statistics.

Q: What are your research interests?
I am focused on how geospatial technologies can enable growers to target placement of conservation practices on the landscape to reduce the environmental impact of production agriculture without compromising the bottom line.

Q: Who inspired you to pursue the career you have today?
How I ended up here is a long tale of tiny opportunities that added up to something larger. The short version is I found GIS thanks to my mother, I found agriculture thanks to a summer job at the local Co-op, and I found precision agriculture thanks to Drs. Raun, Solie, and Stone who offered OSU’s first college course on the topic. I found my way to MSU thanks to my two graduate advisors, Drs. Peeper and Shaw. After spending three years doing conservation work with the MSU REACH program, I realized I wanted to apply precision agriculture concepts to conservation research.

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Q: What has been your favorite project while working at GRI?
This past summer we hosted a small group of graduate students in a summer research experience. The students were bright and interesting, and it was lovely getting to know each one of them. It was exhausting cramming everything into the short time window but now that they are gone, the building isn’t the same without them here. They are definitely missed. I’ve been involved in a lot of projects, but that is the first one I would say without reservation I’d sign up for again.

Q: What is the coolest thing you are working on right now?
We’re in the early stages of starting a truly collaborative effort for farmer-led on-farm conservation research. With this project, we are making a large departure from the typical approach to university research and extension by putting farmers in the driver’s seat and using our skills and expertise to support their activities.

"Because GRI pulls together scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds, it’s a great place to find someone with complementary skills. This has been very helpful for lots of things such as writing grants, understanding complex engineering concepts, and engaging in multidisciplinary research."

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
When I was 18, I applied for a job at Wal-Mart. They wouldn’t hire me.

Q: What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?
I am an enthusiastic supporter of personal enrichment courses. Thanks to the opportunity to learn photography from MSU continuing education, I am now officially hooked. My love of photography led me to another of my newer interests – birdwatching. When I’m not out hunting for birds to photograph, I greatly enjoy reading.