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Career Path for Jon Harrison

Career Path for Jon Harrison

Fast Facts:

  • Number of years in school: 21
  • Favorite class / subject: Environmental Sciences
  • Hardest class / subject: Physics
  • First Job: Mowing lawns and shoveling snow
  • Dream job as a kid: Forester
  • One word you would use to describe your current job: Stimulating

daddy long legsJon Harrison has loved the outdoors since he was a young boy, when he went on camping and hiking trips with his family. He would watch animals, like the daddy longlegs spider, as they carefully crept along a particular path across the forest floor. There, he could sit and watch, and wonder how they lived.

Outside, days or nights can be hot, cold, dry, or wet. How do animals survive without a house to hide in, complete with air conditioner and heater? These types of questions are what sparked his interest in biology.

When he was younger, Harrison imagined becoming a forester. He also explored the idea of becoming a doctor, but then decided against it, and left school to pursue a job outside of a university setting. Over the years, he held many different jobs, including teaching wilderness education programs and installing solar power panels. But throughout this time, he always kept in mind how much he loved getting a peek at the seemingly secret lives of animals.

Just like a spider can choose many different paths across a forest floor, there is no one right way to become a scientist. Though Harrison’s path wandered between many different fields, he eventually decided to pursue a career that would let him answer questions about how animals survive in their environments. He worked on getting an advanced degree and started research on reptiles, but soon discovered his love for insects.

Rainbow grasshopperResearch on insects took Harrison to different states and countries before he was hired at ASU in 1991. Though he has worked on many different species of insect over this time, grasshoppers are Harrison’s favorite. Lucky for him, the number of species of grasshoppers in Arizona is spectacular, as he has been able to spot more than 30 species in a single day.

Since pursuing his research on the ecology and physiology of insects, Harrison has never looked back, as working on a wide range of questions about biology and insects keeps him busy and happy. As a professor at ASU, he gets to do what he loves: ask questions, solve puzzles, and mentor students as they work their way into this important field of science—no matter what path they take to get there.

Jon Harrison and beetle

Jon Harrison with one of his giant research beetles.

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Jon Harrison and beetle

Jon Harrison with one of his giant research beetles.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.