Why did you choose to become a scientist?
My path to becoming a scientist began as an accounting major. Feeling somewhat ambivalent about my college pursuits and prospers, I chose the lucrative field of accounting as a career path. However, it only took one accounting course and one environmental biology course to realize my true passion: environmental science. After much internal conflict (and hundreds of “pro’s and con’s” lists), I decided to leap from the safety of a cushy job prospect in business to an exciting and personally fulfilling career path in science. Since deciding to follow my passions, I have truly experienced that science is discovery. Before engaging with the science community, I had no idea that people could spend their life conducting research as a career. I mistook the field of science as black and white, limited by few laboratory technician careers. I quickly learned this is not the case. Every day as a scientist is a day of learning, questioning, and unraveling the world’s truths. As a scientist, I am able to choose my career with few boundaries and limitations.
What are your current research interests?
I am currently interested in researching how and where people perceive value in natural landscapes. Humans and nature are inextricably linked, and it is integral that conservation efforts include management that reflects this coupled human-nature system. My current research explores the spatial relationships between social values (i.e., aesthetics, perceived biodiversity, and recreation) and landscape metrics in the US and Australia. As environmental issues continue to grow, it is inherent that these concerns are framed in ways that resonate with diverse and unique audiences. It will be people who shape the future conditions of our natural landscapes, thus it is inherent to understand people’s relationships with nature. Understanding the values people perceive in nature and where they ascribe these values can be useful in creating succinct management with strengthened public involvement, ultimately enhancing conservation efforts. It is my goal, as a scientist and researcher, to facilitate pro-environmental behavior through strengthening emphasis on human-nature relationships in conservation efforts.
Choose one quality that you think is the most important for making a good scientist. Why?
Communication! Finding nuanced results in research is rendered almost useless unless these findings are effectively communicated to the public. The largest issues I experience in environmental science are that effective solutions are being proposed, but the public does not understand or accept these solutions. Effective communication will elicit necessary and positive changes. Being able to communicate to a broad and diverse audience as well as your scientific peers is a useful skill to learn as a scientist.
What advice would you have for aspiring scientists?
Persistence is key! In science many failed attempts precede successful findings but learning from these failures is what makes a great scientist. It may seem easy to lose sight of your pursuits when confronted with difficult obstacles, but these hurdles are all a part of the journey. Surround yourself with like-minded people who can share their stories, offer advice, and empower you to achieve your goals.
Why 500 women scientists?
I largely subscribe to the belief of inclusiveness and this belief is reflected in my chosen career path, my extra-curriculars, and passions. It is so inspirational seeing women come together to demand this inclusiveness. Science is a largely male driven field and by ignoring this gender gap, science is limiting its full potential. The women belonging to 500 Women Scientists resemble empowerment, equality, enhanced scientific literacy, and community strength. Through this organization I feel that we can make a difference and galvanize anyone that has been made to feel ostracized or oppressed.