While students get focused and settled behind their computers, Colton Laws sits on the other side of the screen prepared to deliver the day’s lecture. The students wait to hear what story Laws will share to connect the morning lecture with real-life scenarios.
Laws, a doctoral student in the Department of Natural Resources Management at Texas Tech University, grew up in East Texas in the small town of Sulphur Springs. At a young age, his family moved to Clyde, Texas, where they raised cattle until the late 1990s.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree at Abilene Christian University in environmental science and biology, Laws took his knowledge and interest of environmental research to Texas Tech. Laws was immediately impressed with the campus and its welcoming faculty.
He was especially sold on the idea of continuing his education at Texas Tech after his two-hour conversation with Philip Gipson, Ph.D., Kleburg professor in NRM.
“The way they all welcomed me with open arms was what really sealed the deal,” Laws said.
Laws finished his master’s at Texas Tech and is now working on his Ph.D. He is currently a teaching assistant and helps run NRM online classes alongside Gipson.
One of the courses Laws teaches is the non-major’s section of NRM 1401 Introduction to Natural Resource Management. This core life and physical science course covers energy production, agriculture, wildlife management and anything that goes into the general category of natural resource management. For the lab portion of the class, Gipson and Laws go out into the field and show students how to apply natural resources-based research and management techniques.
One of Laws’ former students, AnnaStasia Torres, enjoys Laws’ teaching style.
“He was the reason I changed my major to natural resources management,” Torres said. “The way that he was so excited about everything got me really excited. He opened my eyes to all the many things I could do in the industry. Without Laws, I wouldn’t be as confident as I am today.”
Laws describes his teaching style as relaxed and personal and said his favorite part of teaching is when the student gets it, and the light comes on.
“That’s when I know I’ve done my job successfully,” he said. “You can really tell when it connects with a student and they understand the lecture,” Laws said.
While teaching is his passion, Laws is also dedicated to studying the swift fox population, which is a continuation of a research project started in the NRM department in the early 2000s that investigates artificial dens that were placed to provide refuge for the swift foxes.
During Laws’ master’s work, he found a lot of the artificial dens were no longer able to be used because they were packed with debris and almost completely buried. He recommended that every two to three years land owners should check on the dens to make sure they were still accessible to the foxes.
For his Ph.D., Laws is currently building off this research and writing a computer model and a general outline plan for what can be done to bring in swift foxes from other states to help the population bounce back in areas of Texas where they are no longer found.
Gipson said he is highly impressed with the way Laws has been able to reach their students.
“He is a positive force in this world and a source of inspiration for his students,” Gipson said. “The man is a rare find, a great scientist and an overall good person.”
Laws said he has enjoyed being able to meet a variety of people and learn more about the scientific community.
“My time here at Texas Tech has taught me a lot about how science and research in general is done and also about what goes on behind-the-scenes to teach a class,” Laws said. “My advice to anyone is just to care about what you are doing in your industry. That makes all the difference.”