What does your day to day schedule look like as a Wetlands Geology Specialist?
It’s usually a 50/50 shot if I’ll be working in the office or out in the field. When I’m working out
in the field I’m typically collecting water samples from streams or wells and downloading data
logging instruments. The other half of my agenda is working in the office organizing and
analyzing the data collected in the field.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked
I’ve always had an interest in science. As a child, I definitely drove my parents crazy performing
a wide array of “experiments” and making a mess in the house. My interest in environmental
science grew as I got older and gained an interest in the outdoors, particularly while I was in
college. Acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines is very common where I went to college
and a vast majority of the rivers in the area are highly acidic and orange tinted. Seeing the
impacts this caused within the watershed inspired me to try and make a difference and lead me
into a career in environmental work.
What part of your job would be surprising to non-scientists?
I think most non-scientists visualize all scientists as stock photo chemists – people wearing lab
coats, in a spotless lab with gloves and goggles holding a flask of mysterious liquid. Working as
a wetlands geology specialist is very far from that. Most of our work is outside where we walk
miles through tall and dense vegetation and work in very dirty and murky water. We often get
poison ivy and have run-ins with wild animals such as skunks, snakes and snapping turtles. It’s a
unique and dirty job.
What project are you most proud of / currently working on?
I’m working on projects for the Illinois Tollway, Illinois Department of Transportation and the
Illinois Nature Preserve Commission. I’m proud of all three of these contracts because of their
aim to restore and preserve wetlands and streams throughout Illinois. Every bit counts, while trying to combat the effects of climate change and protecting a small wetland on the side of the road, makes a difference.
What advice would you give to future female scientists?
The truth is, being a female scientist is hard. We face challenges that our male counterparts do
not have to deal with, particularly in the field. It may be harder for us to carry around all of the
equipment required for fieldwork, we may not be able to perform certain tasks in the same way
as someone heavier and taller may be able to and most field clothing is usually
not made specifically for women, but these things don’t make us any less capable. Don’t be
afraid to do things differently! As Bear Grylls always says, “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.”