Throughout my education, employment, and travel experiences, I have focused on exploring the changing nature of interactions between society and the natural environment. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!) in 1999 with an interdisciplinary degree in zoology, conservation biology and environmental studies. My early work as an undergraduate was focused largely on the natural sciences. For example, working with the Center for Limnology (limnology is the study of fresh waters), I performed independent research on predator-prey interactions between large-mouth bass and yellow perch in aquatic environments with variable light conditions.
While this experience opened my eyes to the wonders of the natural world and the process of scientific research, I found my true passion in relating the mysteries of the environment by teaching outdoor and science education. After graduating, I moved to the Florida Keys and spent an incredible year teaching marine science to fourth- through twelfth-grade students in a program designed to encourage learning by seeing, exploring and adventuring.
In 2000, I began some adventuring on my own. I spent a full year traveling through Southeast Asia, Nepal and India. For the first time, I experienced the direct, conflict-ridden relationship between natural resource usage and the survival and livelihood of people, communities and entire cultures. Villagers in remote communities in Thailand, for example, train their youth in self-defense in case of violent attack from an aggressive logging company. I watched small communities consistently being pushed onto the poorest lands in favor of large-scale agricultural and economic development opportunities. I was baffled by the number and complexity of factors that shape dynamics between people and their environments.
I left Asia determined to learn more about exactly what influenced such conflicts. Combining that curiosity with my love of teaching, a Ph.D. program was the natural next step.
Presently, I am completing my second year of graduate studies in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management's division of Society and Environment. Looking back on the two short years I've spent as a graduate student, I am overwhelmed with the amount that I've learned and the incredible opportunities that I've had. I've worked with UC Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies on trade agreements and worker conditions in Tijuana's assembly plants, known as maquiladoras, researched labor and environmental movement coalitions in the United States, and participated in the World Trade Organization's 5th Ministerial meeting. Last summer I went to Chile to research free trade agreements and the development of the country's vast fishing industry.
My previous work, along with classroom studies and teaching as a graduate student instructor, has directed me toward the questions about globalization that I will address this summer in Mexico, a project made possible by support from a generous fellowship from the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley. I see Mexico, with its particular political and economic history and unique geographic relationship to the United States, as a critical example of the challenges and opportunities created by the global economy. I look forward to diving into my summer research, refining and clarifying my questions and initial hypotheses, and sharing my thoughts through these dispatches. Stay tuned!