Looking back, Kyle Reid would never have imagined that someday he would be studying bats and pursuing a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology.
Kyle dropped out of high school as a sophomore and ended up getting his GED, then working at a grocery story. After a few years, he decided maybe he could go to college – after all, his sister was a student at Olive-Harvey College (OHC), why couldn’t he do it?
He enrolled at OHC, but didn’t really know what he wanted to study. He thought maybe being an EMT would be a good fit, but after one medical course, he quickly realized that wasn’t the right path for him. He continued taking general education courses and courses he thought would be interesting, but it wasn’t until a conversation with his biology professor Dr. Oliver Pergams about careers that he realized what he wanted to pursue.
“You only know about the jobs you see on TV and those of people in your family. I had an interest in animals as a young child, but you always hear that the smart kids go on to be doctors and lawyers – nothing else. Dr. Pergams asked me if I’d ever thought about researching animals for a career and it really opened my eyes to other possibilities,” said Kyle.
Dr. Pergams then told him about an internship at the Field Museum, which he ended up getting. Before he started as a student researcher the summer after he graduated from OHC with an associate in science, Dr. Pergams helped him prepare by teaching him how to work with museum specimens. He then spent the summer measuring, tracking and preparing bat specimens from Kenya for storage at the museum.
His next step was transferring to a four-year university that didn’t end up being a good fit. He found himself studying bats again, but this time in an internship in Costa Rica. He got his first taste of field work there, studying the behaviors of the proboscis bat, which includes staying so still they look like tree bark. When he came back to the U.S., he enrolled at UIC and was a supplemental instructor back at OHC teaching biology with Dr. Pergams. On his way to a Bachelor’s of Arts in Biology in 2017, Kyle spent time working with Project Exploration, introducing high schoolers to outdoor environmental field work, and as a field leader for the Student Conservation Association, giving at-risk young adult men a productive alternative to street life.
Now studying the effects of urbanization on bats in graduate school at the University of California Santa Cruz, he is set to earn his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2024. His goal is to continue to share his passion and what he’s learned at a minority-serving university – and set an example for others that for the “smart kid” who works hard, there are plenty of career options.
Recently named one of the North American Association for Environmental Education’s 30 Under 30, Kyle is currently a student in Erika Zavaleta’s lab, continuing to promote undergraduate research through the Doris Duke Conservation Program and CAMINO Program. Check out Kyle talking about his experience here, and learn more about his research here.
Interested in pursuing science at City Colleges of Chicago? Explore the possibilities in natural sciences here.