There was never a specific moment in which I was called to science. I feel it has always been with me since birth, and possibly conception. I want to believe it is in everybody. I was just fortunate enough to be surrounded by the right people, situations, and environments that kept the passion for science very alive within me.
There is a story my grandma tells about my sister and I. She was about 3, and I was 4. My sister had turned to my mother, and asked the common question on why grass was green. I quickly told her to not ask our mom. She would lie and say it was God who made the grass green. I then informed her it was due to chlorophyll and photosynthesis.
I have faith, and I consider myself spiritual, but from a young age I naturally questioned everything. That is probably why my mother quickly took me out of Catholic school after a requested meeting in Pre-K. This was caused by my inability to stop challenging the teacher during a lesson on Creation when she brushed off my question about evolution. At that time, I had no idea it was a hot topic.
As small children, my sisters and I lived with my mom, grandma, and aunt. All of whom were nurses. This inevitably made biology my first science. I would look through all of their nursing books, occasionally attend nursing classes when schedules conflicted and there were no babysitters, and I would help them study.
Throughout school, I excelled in my science classes. In 4th grade, I was the only one in my district who received a perfect score on the NYS Science Exam. I continued to do well throughout middle school and high school. I had the GREATEST science teachers. They were all so different, but had such a love for what they taught. It made learning fun and exciting.
At 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do, or what I could do in the field of science. Earth Science was my favorite class, so I decided to pursue a major in Geology. I loved it! The courses, the faculty, the classmates, the research, the internships, the field study in South Dakota’s Black Hills. I had found my niche in life.
I was particularly drawn to hydrogeology and geomorphology. This started in an introductory course called Thirsty Planet, which addressed water issues of the world. Desalination, drought, countries having water wars, villages being forced to relocate so the direction of a river could be manipulated; my eyes were forced open. We even met a woman from India, whose whole day was focused around getting water to her family. Water unfit for bathing, let alone consumption. From that moment on, the professor who taught that content became my mentor. My internships became water intensive. He played a big role in me learning how to write as a scientist, think as a scientist, and truly understand the importance of science in the world in which we live.
When science is in my life, whether I’m working on a project, or answering questions on a fossil someone found, I always have a fulfilling sense of purpose. However, two big accomplishments stand out. The first was in an annual water report for Chautauqua County’s Waternet. Fellow interns and I compiled data for analysis from wells and creeks. My accomplishment occurred when I went from being a part of the “et al” to being the first name listed as the author. Another transpired when I was the first student to receive the Florence Eikenburg Scholarship. This scholarship honors a wonderful woman, who was not allowed to major in science due to a lack of women in the field. She didn’t let that stop her, and found other ways to follow her passion.
I took a small hiatus from science when I found out I was pregnant. Science was put on the back burner, but it wasn’t completely gone. When my oldest was 1, she was able to let people know the “rock” she carried around was actually a crinoid fossil.
Now the mother of two beautiful girls, I find life’s enjoyments through them. I try to share with them my love of science. While looking for fairies in the woods, they learn about old growth, how creeks carve out an area, why some areas are wet while others are dry. While riding in the car, they’ve heard about the Catskill Delta, and how this area was covered in warm tropical waters millions of years ago. My oldest likes to tell me about the giant fish she pretends to see as she gazes out the window. These conversations, as well as the excitement I derive during any random science based discussion, made me realize how much I’ve missed actively participating in science. This is what lead me to teaching; another thing I feel has always been a part of me.