Jessica Griffin of Salem, Connecticut credits CAHNR with giving her a passion for traveling and an excitement for her studies. Throughout her time at UConn, Jessica has been able to travel abroad, conduct research and complete a rewarding internship. After she graduates in May 2017 with a double major in ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) and environmental sciences, Jessica hopes to become wildlife biologist. Here is what she said about her experiences as a CAHNR student.
What attracted you to UConn? I was initially interested in the natural resources and biological sciences programs at UConn. Also, UConn is relatively close to my home, and I wanted to stay in the area.
Why did you choose your particular major? I have always been fascinated with the natural world, and I want to pursue a career in studying the wonders of nature. Originally, I started out as a geoscience major. However, I realized that geoscience tends to focus on the past and does not incorporate as much biology into the coursework as I wanted. In addition, I am interested in how humans interact with the environment. This is what led me to declare environmental sciences with a concentration in natural resources as a major. Later, I added EEB as my second major in order to learn more about the living world. I love that I am always intrigued and excited by what I am learning in class.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? My most memorable experience at UConn has been being a CAHNR Ambassador. Before joining the ambassador program this past fall, I only interacted with people in my majors. Now, I have the opportunity to become more involved in the CAHNR community. By attending different events such as Cornucopia, open houses and high school visits, I meet many people that I might not encounter otherwise, including students, faculty and alumni. As an ambassador, I feel more connected to the CAHNR community, and I love sharing my knowledge about it with others.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. This past year, I received a UConn IDEA grant to pursue a research project. I worked with Dr. Hans Dam of the Department of Marine Sciences at UConn’s Avery Point campus. I studied plantonic copepods and how their feeding habits are affected by red tide algae. I really enjoyed this project. It introduced me to the rigors of running my own experiment, and I learned to be independent, patient and adaptable to different situations and challenges that arose.
In addition, I interned this past fall at the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) on campus. I worked with other students, faculty and staff to help UConn become a more sustainable and environmentally friendly university. I helped to create reports and surveys that compared UConn’s sustainability to other universities. In addition, I worked on a number of different green initiatives on campus. For instance, UConn recently became certified as a Tree Campus USA. This means that the school has to adhere to certain standards when managing the trees and forests on campus. I really enjoyed my internship, and it was rewarding. After I return from studying abroad this semester, I will continue to work at the OEP.
Also, in November, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with twelve other UConn students to Paris for one week. We attended the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), a conference hosted by the United Nations in order to discuss climate change and carbon emissions. We went to different exhibitions and learned about the conference negotiations themselves and what people that are not in the government can do to make a positive impact. One of the most interesting parts of the experience was Solutions COP21, an exhibition in which companies and city governments discussed what they were doing to reduce their environmental impact. The city of Paris gave a presentation about its impressive green initiatives, and I was able to witness these initiatives firsthand. For instance, Paris implemented a bike sharing program, a progressive way to provide environmentally friendly public transportation. During my visit, I noticed many bike stations and people utilizing the program throughout the city.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? My biggest challenge was adjusting to being away from home. I am very close to my family, and I was not used to being on my own. I had to learn how to be independent.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I expect to graduate in May 2017. After that, I plan to attend graduate school and, hopefully, receive a master’s degree in ecology. In the future, I would love to work as a wildlife biologist or ecologist. My ultimate goal is to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Park Service.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? Before coming to college, I had not traveled at all. During my time at UConn, however, I have had multiple opportunities to go abroad. I learned that traveling is very important to me and something that I want to continue in the future. I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities that I have been given. For instance, in addition to traveling to Paris this past fall, I participated in the UConn South Africa Field Ecology program in May 2015. Also, I am studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland this semester.