What do you do?
I am a Masters student working with the WETFEET Project studying how mangrove movement northward into temperate wetlands could influence soil processes on the eastern coast of Florida. In my previous research I have mainly focused on investigating how global change factors (hotter temperatures, more CO2, more fertilizer runoff) are going to affect plants and soils in wetlands – important ecosystems that are not only beautiful, but also provide humans with services like storm/flood protection and water filtration.
Why did you choose this field?
I have always loved science, and for a long time I wanted nothing more than to become a medical doctor. However, during my first semester of college, I took an Environmental Studies course with a professor that inspired me to pursue ecological research. Every day, I came to class excited about what I’d learn next. Once I realized how passionate I was about environmental sciences, I became determined to seek out and pursue environmental research opportunities, which led me to participate in a few wonderful undergraduate summer research programs. I realized that pursuing environmental sciences would allow me to spend time outdoors (something very important to me as a hiker and nature lover) while also studying vulnerable ecosystems that are critical for human health.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I just recently published my very first scientific article, and even a few years ago I never would have dreamed I could produce something that would be available for other scientists to read. While in school, I spent a lot of time just learning about information and knowledge that was already out there. As a younger student, I never would have imagined that I could actually contribute new knowledge to the world.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love the constant intellectual challenge of STEM, as well as spending time with incredibly smart and passionate individuals. I like learning something new every day, whether I learn about my own field or something interesting that my fellow graduate students are working on.
Best advice for next generation?
My biggest mistake as an early STEM student was believing that failures or mistakes of any kind were unacceptable if I wanted to be a successful scientist. There have been times when I did not think that I could go forward because I did not feel smart enough, accomplished enough, or prepared enough (imposter syndrome is real!). This is pretty nerve-wracking when you’re just starting out in STEM.
However, I’ve found that making mistakes has actually helped me grow immensely as a person and as a scientist. Making mistakes means that I am constantly challenging myself - learning new techniques or trying something intimidating for the first time. My advice would be to see mistakes as opportunities to learn: when you do make a mistake, you now have the opportunity to change your approach or reach out to a mentor so that you can do better next time. Don't let the fear of making mistakes hold you back.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
The Kratt Brothers really sparked my love of nature as a kid. The excitement I got from learning new facts and sharing that knowledge with others still drives me to this day.