Profiles in Classical Education
Dr. Meredith Palmer
Dr. Meredith Palmer
In 2007, Meredith Palmer received her diploma from Veritas Preparatory Academy (Phoenix, AZ) as part of the first graduating class of that classical charter school. Eleven years later, she is pursuing her passions for research, biology, and the Serengeti.
“I have always been drawn to the idea of being a biologist and working in some of the last great functional ecosystems on the planet. Veritas Prep did an excellent job of honing my critical thinking skills and preparing me to engage with and evaluate all different sorts of materials in a rational manner. That education taught me how to generate and develop new ideas and hypotheses. Those skills have served me well in the sciences.”
Today she is Dr. Palmer (Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Minnesota), and she serves as a post-doctoral research associate at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, where she is studying the cascading effects of wolf reintroductions on ecological communities. Her research has taken her to eastern and southern Africa, where she studies predator-prey dynamics in large mammalian communities.
“I’ve done a great deal of work both in tropical and savanna habitats and find the diversity inherent to these places awe-inspiring. It’s a fascinating puzzle to attempt to understand how each of these players influence the others to create the patterns that we see in nature.”
Growing up, Meredith’s passion for biology was inspired by National Geographic; now her work is in the magazine. In February 2018, National Geographic published an article about Meredith’s research, which has important ramifications for conservation and restoration ecology.
“My research allows us to predict changes in ecosystem functioning as large predators are removed while also helping us to reconstruct functional ecological interactions if these species are restored through intense conservation efforts.”
Work like this takes a lot of dedication, thus Meredith’s advice to students and graduates:“Work hard, and don’t be afraid to try for the jobs you really want. And, don’t let failure and rejection stop you from trying, because you have to try again and again and again to get where you want to go. Become proficient in a variety of skills, and find a science that you enjoy, because it’s a lot of demanding work that can become unbearable without a deep appreciation of the questions you are answering!”
Most recently, Meredith had to choose between three prestigious fellowships, all offered for the upcoming academic year: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Smithsonian, and Fulbright Scholars. This veritable triple-crown honor forced Meredith to make a difficult decision. She chose to accept the NSF fellowship to work with Dr. Rob Pringle of Princeton University, returning to her beloved fieldwork in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique.
Learn more about Meredith’s research on her blog: meredithspalmer.wordpress.com
Meredith has four turtles, all named after classic characters: Ophelia (Hamlet), Ajax (The Illiad), Beleg (The Silmarillion) and Darth Maul (Star Wars, Episode I).
When I started looking at the characteristics of high achievers, I found that they had lots of things that made them special, but grit emerged as an important common denominator, whether you’re talking about a prima ballerina, a grand chess master, a mathematician, or a writer.
When the SAT was founded in 1926, it helped to level the playing field for excellent students who lacked the pedigree to attend Ivy League colleges. It allowed the very best students to rise to positions of leadership and influence in business and politics, regardless of background.
The liberal arts, which teach us to consider at the same time the huge and the tiny, are the antidote par excellence to this microscopic approach. Moreover, the liberal arts teach about the human things—what we especially need to emphasize in an age of mechanism and simulation.
Virtue is the flagship publication of the Institute for Classical Education. It disseminates stories, ideas, research and experiences in classical education to readers across the nation, helping them pursue the classical ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty.