trading in my lab coat for hiking boots: an introduction

trading in my lab coat for hiking boots: an introduction

Hi everyone! Welcome to my Summer 2021 Blog Post series. To get the formalities out of the way, I’ll go ahead and introduce myself:

My name is Jenelle Booker, a graduated senior from The College of Wooster. This past spring, I graduated with a BA in Chemistry and completed my senior thesis modeling the degradation of plastic waste. I will be going back to Wooster in the fall to complete my Environmental Studies and German minors and to continue as a Senior Researcher under my undergraduate advisor. I was born in Germany, however, I was raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA and spent the summer and holidays in the backcountry of Charleston, MS. Although I never formally engaged with ecological work, my six years of laboratory research has always had an environmental framework. (If you’re really curious, I can always send my CV. 😉) Outside of the lab, I am a rugby player, a writer, and a tarot reader.

WELL! Now that you know a little about me and why I chose NPS, it’s time to introduce you to my park and the work I’ll be doing. Many of you have probably heard of the hot and dry Mojave Desert, particularly the national parks Death Valley, Joshua Tree, or Parashant. This summer, I have the amazing opportunity to work with each of these parks as well as the Great Basin National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Manzanar National Historic Site, and the Mojave National Preserve as the Science Communications intern with the Mojave Desert Inventory and Monitoring Network. The Mojave Desert Inventory and Monitoring Network (MOJN) is a member of the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Division, whose mission is to “gather and analyze information on specific park natural resources…that can indicate the overall biological health of parks,” and therefore, “helps parks make sound, science-based management decisions that help us preserve America’s special places.” My job as a Science Communications intern is to communicate MOJN’s research to park staff and the general public through resource briefs, newsletters, and of course, social media like Instagram and Facebook. Although outside of my explicit job description, I will also be participating in a few crew trips to monitor bat populations, desert springs, and even upland vegetation.

So, why after six years of air conditioned lab research, would I choose to spend the summer outdoors? Environmental conservation, remediation of our ecological systems, and sustainable living has been my passion from an early age. Chemistry, however, was a skill. Although my research sought to monitor or predict anthropogenic impact on our natural systems, I was missing the hands on work in my natural environment. I never had a formal, hands-on experience in ecology, yet I envisioned my next step in environmental conservation to be in the field, working with a small team, investigating the impacts of climate change and human behavior on natural resources. Now doesn’t that sound like working in a National Park to you? Just doing the work, however, was insufficient to me. Research in any case means very little if the public and political institutions don’t know about it. Science communication, especially in making scientific research accessible to the public, is also a passion of mine. With climate change, environmental racism, mass extinction, western drought, etc., it’s important for the public to understand what’s changing in their communities, so they may enact both personal and political change. When looking for an internship with the NPS, science communication was a big part of my application process.

Lacking in any formal background in ecological monitoring, I hope this summer will be an opportunity for me to learn the basics of ecological monitoring and ecological systems as well as the natural resources and threats specific to the Mojave Desert area. I also hope to apply my scientific/technical science communication skills to a broader audience, especially in acknowledging and increasing the involvement of BIPOC communities in MOJN and NPS. If you’re interested in MOJN’s work or just want to follow my journey throughout the summer, stay tuned to my blog posts and follow @mojnnps on Instagram and @npsmojn on Facebook. Looking forward to seeing ya’ll!

  • Caleb Bolin
    Posted at 16:17h, 23 June

    Very well said! I really agree with what you have to say about science communication: communication and interpretation for the people outside of academia is a key part of making real changes in our communities! From a Mosaics alum who also recently moved to the Southwest to work with the NPS, I hope you enjoy your time out here and learn a lot!

  • Laura Gaytan
    Posted at 04:31h, 29 June

    Great article! Would love for my teens to have more experiences in nature. Hopefully, in the future, hands on learning experiences could be offered.