In the Field

“Field work is just a part of my job, and I have been doing research for a while, so I can sometimes take it all for granted. Nonetheless, taking GSC staff out into the field is always a treat, having them get experience with hands-on research and conservation. Oftentimes, it is their first time doing that type of work,” says VP of Conservation & Research Lindsey Zarecky.

Recently, three GSC staff members – Marketing Manager Erica Brown, Education Events Manager Jessica Gouge and Exhibits & Design Manager Sara Payne – joined Zarecky for farmland restoration project in Alamance County’s Stinking Quarter.

We chatted with them about their respective experiences, and some of what they shared may surprise you.

What’s your level of background knowledge in biology, ecology or environmental science?

Erica: Not much, to be honest! I took the basic courses in school and have been learning through my experience at the GSC for the last 17 years.

Project expectations versus reality?

Jessica: While I have heard stories from colleagues about what is involved in working on Mona Island, Puerto Rico or looking for mussels in local waterways, I had no real expectations for this project because no two projects are alike. 

What’s the Stinking Quarter project’s purpose?

Sara: This work is part of a 7-year government preservation and conservation project. The surveying we did was part of an initial assessment of the herp biodiversity in the area. This data and other data collected as part of the initial assessment will be compared to future datasets to show how the preservation/conservation work is impacting biodiversity in the area.

For you, what was the best part of this experience?

Erica: The Homeland Creamery ice cream at the end of our day. Just kidding. The best part was watching a team of all women (and one woman’s daughter!), participate in field work. It’s inspiring to see these women out in the field on a 90-degree day with snake hooks and data sheets. It’s great to see role models for the next generation of scientists.

We have to ask: what was the worst part of the experience?

Sara: The worst part was how many times I had to dump water out of my boots. At least it made Jessica laugh. Next time, I will wear waders.

Why did you feel it was important for you to participate in this project?

Sara: I like field work in general, but it was especially important to me to participate in this because it involved herps. Snakes, frogs, turtles, and other herps are vital to their ecosystems, but they often get less attention than the cute and fuzzy species. I guess I have a soft spot for them.

Do you think the GSC’s role in conservation & research is important?

Jessica: Yes, I absolutely do. It’s important for us to be practicing what we preach to our guests each day and to do our part to make a difference in the world around us. How else can we expect anyone to follow our lead, unless we’re out there in the field?

What do you appreciate most about the GSC’s work?

Erica: Although mussels and bats are certainly not polar bears and elephants, they are equally as important. I like the fact that we bring attention to the “little guys”!

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