Nick J. Balster is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Soil Science and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. He holds a B.S. in Forest Management from North Carolina State University, a M.S. in Forest Ecology from Michigan Technological University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Idaho in Physiological Ecology. His lab, “Collaborations in Ecosystem Science and Environmental Education”, seeks innovative ways to combine research, teaching, and outreach both in ecological and educational systems. In the sciences, he studies the interactions between soils (both natural and urbanized) and the organisms that interact with and in turn control the cycling of energy and materials. He serves as the current chair of a new undergraduate major in Environmental Sciences, as well as Faculty Director of the Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence program that mentors early-career faculty to become fast, efficient, and effective starters in teaching. (Photographed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Photo Services).