Jesse grew up in rural New York. Years spent scrambling over rocks and rooting through leaves looking for salamanders fostered a deep love for the natural world and a curiosity about the processes that shape it. For college, he traveled to the rocky coasts of New England to pursue a degree in Geology–Biology at Brown University. At Brown he worked in a terrestrial biogeochemistry lab exploring plant–soil interactions, focusing particularly on seedling uptake of the plant-important nutrient phosphorus.
In his doctoral work he investigated climatic controls on soil development and nutrient cycling in ecosystems. Currently he works in a lab that specializes in applying isotopic methods to understanding paleoclimates. He uses his background in terrestrial ecosystems to investigate climatic controls on biological communities. For this work, he use a combination of isotopic climate proxies, paleopollen records, and geomorphological studies.
In addition to his scientific pursuits, he volunteers with the Center for Diverse Leadership in Science focusing on scientific outreach in the broader Los Angeles community.