Growing up in urban North Plainfield, NJ, some of my earliest memories were in the seemingly-infinite patch of woods behind my house. Cutting down bamboo, trying to cross a mucky area we called “Dead Man’s Hollow”, and watching tadpoles undergo metamorphosis in our pool were unknowingly my first steps into the world of ecology. After moving to rural Hunterdon County, my connection with natural and public lands arose from exploring nearby parks and preserves.
Unsure of exactly what I wanted to pursue, I started working towards an associate’s degree in biology at Raritan Valley Community College. While taking a general ecology course with Dr. Emilie Stander, I was fascinated by the incredible diversity of wildlife and history of ecological studies in our state. I knew then that I was infected with the “ecology bug”.
I became obsessed with identifying plants and birds; learning everything I could about their ecology and interconnectedness. Taken under the wing of Dr. Jay Kelly, I became involved with a wide range of research projects and volunteer opportunities. As an hourly employee for the Department of Environmental Protection, I conducted surveys and restoration work for rare and endangered plants across the state from the beaches of Cape May to the swamps of the Kittatinny Ridge. Through these experiences, I grew incredibly interested in the preservation of rare plants and the relationship between forest composition and bird communities.
After finishing my associate’s degree, I transferred into the Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources program at Rutgers. The department’s extraordinary faculty furthered my interest in working in the field, “thinking spatially”, and exploring research ideas. Being surrounded by other passionate ecologists, all with distinct interests and talents, made me realize how the field of ecology is much like an ecological community. Every individual has a unique influence on how we each study the natural world that we are all so curious about.
Immediately following graduation, I will be working with the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico as an intern for the Chicago Botanic Garden. I will be setting up trend monitoring plots for rare plants and assisting with restoration and management projects. After narrowing down my research interests, I plan to attend graduate school and pursue a career in conservation.