Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Life Aquatic 2011 - Introducing Claire

Hello everyone! My name is Claire Wood and I am an environmental science and conservation biology major at The Evergreen State College and a Student Temporary Employee Program (STEP) fisheries technician with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).

For as long as I can remember, the natural world has been incredibly important to me and I have been deeply interested in the scientific underpinnings of the universe. As I grew older, this passion matured as I became involved in field work, restoration efforts, wildlife rehabilitation, ecological surveys, and the like. I was fortunate enough to live in a school district (in Nebraska) where smaller “focus programs” were offered as an alternative to the large standard high schools. I attended the science focus program for all 4 years and was able to delve deeply into science and participated in a great deal of experiential learning. I then enrolled at Evergreen for its fantastic environmental science program, interdisciplinary approach, and student-directed curriculum. It has proven to be a great fit and has allowed me the flexibility to study abroad. Last spring quarter, for example, I studied in Costa Rica and Guatemala as part of an environmental field program. We studied the ecology of the area as well as the implications and impacts of “ecotourism” and cash crop agriculture on these unique and incredibly biologically diverse countries. This program was very eye-opening to the multitude of challenges these people and countries face, as well as the many facets of conservation of these critical ecosystems. This experience reinforced my passion for social and ecological stewardship while demonstrating how much of a positive impact each person can make. This type of responsibility is not to be taken for granted.

Through my studies and direct experiences, I have found education to be a common and effective tool for making positive changes. The chance to gain experience in conservation-based educational work is a big reason why this STEP position with the FWS was so appealing. I will be working as an instructor for the Youth Fisheries Academy day camp program, which aims to connect youth with nature, educate them on various fisheries science topics and methods, and put conservation in the forefront of their mind. It will also embolden participants' work by demonstrating that science is comprehensible, diverse, important, and even fun! In addition to the educational work, this position will also allow me to gain field experience when I work on several fisheries conservation field projects this summer. These projects will likely have a lasting effect and pave the way for more progress in the future. The other two STEP technicians and I are looking forward to keeping you filled in on the many aspects of our work as the season progresses. We hope you all have a fantastic summer and thanks for reading!