I grew up along California’s San Juaquin Delta, in the shadow of a Chevron oil refinery. Luckily, I had parents who thought it was cool to hike miles into the Sierra Nevada mountains, poop in holes you frantically dug, and sleep on the ground for fun! (aka backpacking). I was fascinated by how those huge pine trees seemingly grew out of pure granite rock. But the dichotomy of drinking sweet water from alpine lakes for vacations and returning to the “no swimming” Delta waters in my backyard was a bit confusing. That whiplash continues to shape my path today.
I studied soil science and geology at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where I spent as much time outside hammering rocks as I did inside analyzing soils. While at Cal Poly, I secured internships with the Forest Service in Alaska and Oregon using soils to inform land management recommendations. Leveraging data gathered from the Oregon internship, and with the help of mentors, I participated in my first true research experience co-authoring a senior thesis on how forest management influenced soil properties. It was about that time I discovered this thing called graduate school where you get paid to learn and try to discover new things. How cool is that?!
Eventually I made my way to Oregon State University examining a long-term soil productivity experiment for a Masters Degree. Nearing graduation from that project, my adviser (Dr. Jeff Hatten) was awarded a grant analyzing soil organic matter characteristics at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). As a consequence of luck and circumstance, I continued my academic career with Dr. Hatten through a soil science PhD program where I expect to complete my degree in Fall 2022.
While I’ve become deeply enamored by soil science, in all its complexity and beauty, I am unlikely to remain in this field. I love understanding - on a biogeochemical level - how soils support global ecosystems, but I think the field of soil science has too narrowly focused our attention and we’re missing the true impact of our knowledge. So instead, I hope to use what I’ve learned in my graduate studies and apply that to a more people-centered approach with an environmental justice framework. If you can’t tell, I’m actively searching for a future career where I can weave together my broad science knowledge, science communication skills, and my set of values. I don’t have many ideas of how to do that yet, but one thing is for sure; I am determined to leave Earth, but especially its people, in better shape than when I entered it.