Ever since I was a young girl, I knew that I wanted to work outside with animals. I grew up in small town Ashland, NE on a small acreage with lots of old growth forest and prairie. That is where I spent my time playing outside with my twin brother and rescued baby rabbits and birds from the evil claws of the outdoor cats. I always thought that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up but realized that I did not want to work with animals that are sick or in distress. Once I graduated from high school, I decided to work towards a bachelor’s degree in organismal biology.
I discovered my passion for ornithology while taking a research in biological sciences class. This led to my undergraduate research project where I studied the diet and habitat of Barn Owls at a nest site in Ponca State Park. I was fortunate enough to be able to publish my research, with the help of my co-author and advisor Dr. Joseph Gubanyi, in the Nebraska Bird Review. After graduating in 2018, I was uncertain of what I should do next. I knew that I wanted to go to grad school but did not find a program that I was passionate about.
For the past two years I worked at Pioneers Park nature center. While there I fulfilled a variety of roles such as being a hike leader, preschool teacher, head counselor, did outreach, and worked in visitor service. The experiences gained at the park made me realize that helping children connect to nature and fulfilling outreach projects to inform people about relevant conservation and wildlife issues in the state is what I am passionate about. I was able to get in contact with my current grad advisor, Dr. Lisa Pennisi and, after realizing our interests aligned, applied to UNL’s SNR grad program and I am in the process of earning my master’s degree in natural resources with a specialization in human dimensions.
Currently I am developing my research around the question of “can you predict a child’s affinity towards nature based on their caregivers or teachers values of nature”. I am also working on a project looking at the accessibility of outdoor spaces for children to learn and play during the pandemic. I will present this research to hopefully be published in the 2021 special issue of Children, Youth, and Environments that will focus on the impact of Covid-19 around the world.