It is my belief that science communication, outreach, and citizen science are fundamental. Incredible research is conducted every day, but it is by sharing new scientific findings and inspiring others to think differently or care more, that makes a difference in this world. I carry this philosophy with me as I pursue my research across the globe.
While living and working in Panama, I have been working with the local community to rise awareness about the importance of the mangrove ecosystem, the marine environment in general, and reducing the amount of waste being dumped into the ocean.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of brilliant students from the Midwest to the Southeast to the Pacific Northwest. I have teamed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as community groups to teach the public about importance of maintaining native plant areas, teach high school about conservation, and provide research experiences for undergraduate students. I have also volunteered as a field technician assisting with prescribed burns, restoration projects, and monitoring programs for threatened species.
The part of citizen science that I love most, is showing others how much diversity there is, even in your own backyard. One of the best ways of doing this is getting people outside and surveying. Thanks to the National Park Service and National Geographic, I, alongside many other incredible researchers, have been able to lead inventory teams throughout National Park land and preserves counting and mapping wildlife populations. During these surveys I am able to teach participants about local flora and fauna and their importance. I was a large proponent of this method of discovery and learning in the 4-H STEM club I lead.
During my master’s program at Mississippi State University, I stayed active in the community through Women in Natural Resources, American Fisheries Society, and The Wildlife Society. These organizations provided opportunities for me to reach out to middle school and high school students. I served as an educator and camp counselor at our conservation camp, taught at the local Science Club, and served as a judge in various science and engineering fairs and competitions. I was also able to help undergraduate students through a mentoring program, organizing educational field opportunities, leading a conflict management workshop for natural resource biologists, assisting with our lecture series, and raising money for scholarships to send students to professional conferences. We also organized community events to help the environment (e.g., stream clean ups).
During my time in Michigan, I worked at Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) where I had the wonderful opportunity to travel across the state of Michigan leading wildlife education programs. In our programs we brought animals to people to teach the general public how incredible our native wildlife is. All of our animals were once wild but had been injured and could not be released. Outside of my interactions with stakeholders and the general public, I used my knowledge of animal behavior to design enrichment programs for our wildlife, train with them, and care for them.
Before I had decided that I wanted to pursue research, I worked at the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic as a student manager. During my time at the WMC, I assisted with surgeries, including surgical implantation of radio transmitters in Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus), applied medical treatments and therapies learned from companion and large animal medicine on wildlife (e.g., physical therapy on a fawn), was on call 27/4 for emergencies, and wrote assessment plans. However, the most rewarding part of my job was speaking at public and private events about wildlife, training interns and volunteers, and working with wildlife rehabilitators.