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Farming: Microbiology-Style with a CBRN Twist

By Courtesy Story | 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) | April 7, 2016

April 7, 2016 — COLUMBUS, Ohio - Not everyone can say they are a “farmer of bacteria” in their civilian job and be sincere about it. Capt. Christopher Ecker, a 7-year Army Reserve chemical officer assigned to the 307th Medical Brigade in Columbus, Ohio, can say that with a smile. 

“The best part is, as a microbiologist, when I get a chance to talk to my unit about CBRN, I can really ramp up what it’s all about from the microbiology point of view.”

Ecker, a microbiologist for the U.S. Geological Survey Ohio Water Science Center, spends a great deal of time in a laboratory as part of the front lines in microbiology research. An Ohio State University graduate, he also understands the “boots on the ground” concept in both his civilian and military job. Esker advises his commander on issues related to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN), homeland defense, and protection.  Although not a member of a chemical unit, the 27-year old enjoys his military job that sometimes parallels his civilian position. 

“Right now I’m working on the harmful agal bloom problem and take samples from Lake Erie,” the Ashville, N.Y., native shared. “We are the boots on the ground investigating and learning more about harmful algal blooms so that one day management strategies can be implemented to reduce the severity or frequency of these blooms. We are hoping in the near future to be able to work closely with the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), who monitors harmful algal blooms using an imaging satellite, to really focus on event-based environmental sampling.”

An Army recruiter had a hand in merging Ecker’s talents and potential. During his college years, Esker was a little bored and looking for something to do that was a little more fun. An appealing CBRN recruiting video, with a microbiology background, influenced Ecker to join the chemical field in Army. His background as a teaching assistant, helps him provide quality instruction on CBRN and Resiliency Training to his brigade.

“As a teaching assistant for a couple of years, I learned how to reach an audience that usually wasn’t listening and make learning interesting,” Ecker noted. 

In his spare time, Esker is a novice plumber on his newly acquired home and an avid reader. He is more of a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan, but welcomed the unveiling of the new Star Wars movie last December.
As Ecker reflects on a Louis Pasteur saying that helps him out, “Chance favors a prepared mind,” he adds his own encouragement to share with anyone in the Army. “The Army is full of opportunities if you’re willing to be prepared and keep an open mind.”

Certainly food for thought as he continues to move forward in both professions. So, microbiology and Army CBRN may not be Star Wars, but when someone gets their marching orders from a satellite and works on chemical warfare, it’s pretty close.