I’m Terry McGlynn. I’m the Faculty Director of the California Desert Studies Center and Professor of Biology at Cal State Dominguez Hills. I’m also a Research Associate at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
My research involves the experimental natural history of ants, urban ecology, community science, and thermal ecology. When a mystery of nature grows to be too enticing, we pursue the answers. Some of these questions have been: Why do so many species of ants move their nests around? How is it that some ant colonies allow thieves to steal food from them without putting up a fight? How is it that slight changes in light, or in trampling of the ground, can cause huge changes in ant biodiversity? How do strobe ants strobe, and why do they bother?
I live in Pasadena, California, in the foothills below the San Gabriel National Monument. I’ve written on here about being an academic parent and being an academic spouse, and I continue to fret about pervasive gender inequities, so I thought the following context might be useful (even though we all should be deeply angry about gender inequities): My spouse works for Jet Propulsion Laboratory, running large-scale informal education programs for NASA. Her work seems to match my job in terms of its joys and challenges. I have one kid, who is no longer a kid, and is off at college.
At CSU Dominguez Hills, we have over fifteen thousand students, about 70% of whom are first-generation college students. They nearly all are commuters, and many are working 20-40 hours per week. We’re officially a Minority-Serving and Hispanic-Serving Institution. In the research community, our university is definitely a Small Pond. Our base teaching load is four full lecture courses per semester. This could also be two lectures and three lab sections, or perhaps six lab sections. Many of us creatively find ways to reassign our time to other activities.
If I’m an evangelist about anything, it’s pressure cooking. Seriously, have you used a pressure cooker? They’re awesome once you learn how, I use it several times per week for rice, beans, risotto, veggies that take a while to cook, all kinds of soups. I could go on and on.
Most academics have walked along wandering and frequently bifurcating paths. I’d like to think that my particular route has helped me get some insights into how different kinds of universities work. I’ve seen big and small, wealthy and not, urban and rural, diverse and homogeneous. Since 1995, I’ve consistently been working out of La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, cumulatively spending a few years there. I also have taught and done research at a variety of other research stations on occasion, which is helpful as I’m now running a field station.
I was an undergrad at Occidental College. After a year of not wandering, I did my PhD work at the University of Colorado in the department formerly known as Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology. I did a brief postdoc at the University of Houston, before taking a visiting position at Gettysburg College. I then taught for seven years at the University of San Diego, a tuition-dependent private Catholic school. I’ve been at Dominguez Hills since 2007. I became the Director of Undergraduate Research at CSUDH in 2018. In 2021, I shifted roles to become the Director of the California Desert Studies Center, while retaining my appointment as faculty at CSUDH. Considering I started down my carer path with a long-term plan for teaching and running a smaller-scale undergraduate research lab, this is not the journey I had in mind! Nevertheless, it’s been a lovely journey and I’m excited to see where it will go next.
[version 22 July 2022]