Profile: JoVonn Hill
Research associate JoVonn Hill's love of the outdoors has led to a unique career combining his interests of grasslands and insects.
The Meridian native enjoyed playing in and exploring the forests and pastures near where he lived when he was younger.
"I always liked to be in the woods. If I wasn't playing baseball, then you could find me out there," he said.
Hill received his bachelor's degree from MSU in interdisciplinary science, with emphases in forestry, wildlife and biology. Now an entomology doctoral student, he mainly works with Southeastern grasslands, studying restoration and management practices for black land prairies.
"Many people think of the Southeast as historically being forested, but we actually have scattered patches of grasslands," he said. "Grasslands were once a big part of the landscape in the South. But we still have these little pockets, and it's like a window into the past."
After finishing his bachelor's, Hill received a master's in entomology researching ants. Hill has since worked for the university for seven years studying ants and grasshoppers. Additionally, he is the Mississippi Entomological Museum's grasshopper curator and recently added to the collection with a large portion of the Smithsonian's grasshopper collection, which includes specimens from the 1800s.
"It worked out really nicely, actually, because a lot of the grassland work I've done has been with ants and grasshoppers," he said of his interconnecting interests.
As well as contributing to and editing a book about Southeastern grasslands, Hill is currently working on a revision of a species group of grasshoppers that occurs across the eastern U.S. for his dissertation work and has a long-term goal of writing a book on the grasshoppers of the Southeastern U.S.
He also is the chair of the William L. Giles Burr Oak Preserve committee. The preserve, located on South Farm, was established in the 1960s to conserve a rare tree in Mississippi. He is working to restore the preserve and turn it into a valuable research tool.
While it would be easy to become exhausted with such a busy schedule, Hill said his job is one of the things that keep him going.
"This isn't work to me; this is what I love to do. It's a job a little kid would like to have and I'm lucky to do it," he said.Writer: Margaret Kovar | Photo: Beth Wynn
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