Jake Grossman


I am gay and I am a a plant ecologist. //

As a gay, Jewish boy growing up in conservative Phoenix, AZ, I did not fit in with the dominant, suburban culture, but was always drawn to plants, botanical gardens, horticulture, canning fruits and vegetables — you name it! This love of plants has taken me on a journey from managing restored wetlands in Ohio, to doing environmental education and agroforestry extension with the Peace Corps in Paraguay and planting thousands of trees at Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Reserve, to studying the evolutionary ecology of the maples at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. Currently, I am a visiting Asst. Professor at Swarthmore College, where I teach, mentor, and do research in plant biology and ecology. All along this journey, I have grown in my queer identity and cherished the connections within and across cultures that being queer has made possible. For me, queerness means questioning the status quo and loving radically in this world; these are also essential elements of my practice as an ecologist and environmentalist.

I am gay and a practicing Jew, but my power identities are generally most salient: I appear before others as a white, able-bodied cisman with class and educational privilege. What does it mean to embody these identities in an ethical, authentic, and joyful way? I am always growing as I seek out and live the answer(s) to this question. As a scientist and teacher, I believe that this way of life means deeply affirming that Black Lives Matter, that Brown Lives Matter, that Native Lives Matter, that Trans Lives Matter, always.