Q. What is your field of study, and what drew you to that field?
A. I work as a wetland geologist, which essentially means I’m a hydrogeologist, hydrologist, and water-quality specialist all wrapped into one!
Q. What is the best part of your job?
A. I really enjoy working outside! I really get to know a wetland or stream site and can see how it changes seasonally and over the years. It’s also exciting to investigate a new site and figure out how to best monitor it. It’s also fun to work alongside a great group of scientists in my section, survey, and institute, that are actually putting science “in action” to gain a greater understanding of our state's natural systems.
Q. What part of your job would be surprising to non-scientists?
A. To instrument a stream with dataloggers, I have to be able to look at a bridge and figure out how to best install the devices and power them. I get to use power tools and even know how to supply solar power to our equipment!
Q. What project are you most proud of?
A. We currently have an extensive project with the Illinois Tollway Authority that is monitoring many waterways in the Chicago suburbs. We’re attempting to get a water quality baseline of the waterways, and know how much they’re being impacted by road salt, sediment, and metals. It’s impressive to me how much data we collect and over such a large area!
Also, on a career development level, I just recently was certified as a Professional Wetland Scientist, and I believe I’m the first female scientist in Central Illinois to achieve this certification.
Q. What advice would you give to other female scientists?
A. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. I believe the success of a scientist is reflected in the quality of the data they collect. For me that sometimes means staying out late to catch discharge measurements during a rain event, walking the extra mile to see how saturated it is in the next field, or sticking my hands into who-knows-what to keep the sensors clear on our water-quality instruments.
Also don’t be afraid to ask for help. I used to think it was a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge to ask those around me for help, but it’s more important in the long-run for a project to be done well, and for you to learn in the process. Eventually you’ll be the one others are coming to for help, and you’ll be more motivated to listen and offer advice.
Q. Who inspires you as a scientist?
A. Some female scientists that inspire me are Wangari Maathai, Margaret E Murie, Rachel Carson, Katherine Johnson, and my sister, Heather Quinn.