2017 Tillman Scholar

Christine Mott

Air Force
Northern Arizona University
Ph.D., Forestry

“I want to explore how everything in the world is connected and restore hope for our natural world.”

Chrissy entered the Air Force as a 17-year old cadet, intending to be a pilot or a flight surgeon. She completed a degree in biology in 2004, but decided to pursue the leadership opportunities presented by a career in aircraft maintenance over the chance to fly. Throughout 12 years of active duty service, Chrissy encountered a multitude of new ideas and cultures around the world.

Working in aircraft maintenance and information operations during two deployments allowed her to understand a larger, strategic picture and to identify the pieces required to solve interconnected issues. She learned to connect discrete ideas into a framework of actionable information, a skillset that is also valuable to scientific discovery. As she began to see patterns and connections between people, places, and things in various regions of the world, she also observed that humans have significantly impacted a number of sensitive ecosystems through conflict and modern conveniences.

When given the opportunity to teach biology at the Air Force Academy, Chrissy realized that her military skills could translate to solving problems in the natural world. Now, after taking a year off to work in the civilian sector and travel to new places, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Forestry at Northern Arizona University while continuing to serve in the Air Force Reserve. Her ultimate goal is to understand the impact of invertebrates on forest restoration, and to use science to advance public policy and education to improve the health of forest habitats around the world.