G.E.M. Environmental is excited to share another new addition to our monthly blog series - Science Stories. Each month, we interview a STEM scholar, student, or community member and ask them things like why they believe the STEM fields are important, how they got started in their field, to what they would do if they hit the jackpot. We hope that our new blog series will inspire, introduce a variety of fields, and create new conversations.
Our guest this month is Elise Gornish, Cooperative Extension Specialist in Ecological Restoration at the University of Arizona. Her program focuses on research and outreach of grassland restoration in arid systems. Elise received her PhD from Florida State University and did a postdoc at the University of California, Davis. She's originally from New York, but is glad to be out of the city.
Why do you believe that the STEM fields are important?
Everything relates to science - everything. If you think about what's in the news right now: immigration, war, natural disasters, healthcare...they are all related directly or indirectly to climate change, natural resources and other facets of science. To understand our world around us in all ways, we need smart, motivated people working in STEM and we need a populace that respects and believes in science.
How and why did you get involved in the STEM fields?
I was not interested in science perse when I was a kid. I liked being outside and always liked animals, but thought of science as old men in lab coats studying cells. I got degrees in business and English in college, expecting to work in marketing. About a year after I started my first job in the marketing field, I realized I was uninterested, unmotivated and just not excited about what I was spending my time doing every day. I started going back to school at night to figure out what I was interested in and took my first ecology class. I was blown away by how interesting it was. I took more related classes and then got myself in a few volunteer and internship opportunities to make sure that that field was something I wanted to go into. When I was sure, I applied to graduate school.
Can you describe another aspect of your life or career that is influenced or enriched by the STEM fields that people would find surprising?
Because I really love my job, because I'm really happy with how I spend my time at work each day, my life is really really easy. Working in STEM has made all aspects of my life better because I spend most of my time doing something that I find fulfilling.
What inspires you in your current position/role?
The good inspiration comes from students who are smart and motivated. I am currently working on a small project with two high school students who are just amazing. Seeing students now who I know will be super scientists when they are a little older is really inspiring.
The bad inspiration comes from a large number of people in the U.S. (and elsewhere) who seems to actively ignore or work against science. People who don't 'believe' in climate change, people who think that immunizations will hurt their kids based on something a celebrity tells them, people who think that education is a liberal plot of some kind - these types of people vote and help to shape decision making in this country for better or for worse. So, I am motivated to provide information in novel ways for people to access and hopefully learn something about science.
Have you ever participated in an internship?
I participated in quite a few internships before attending graduate school. They were diverse in type (hands on field work, lab research and public outreach), and location (a zoo, a museum, and a remote field camp). And, I learned really different things through each internship. The internships were incredibly helpful in helping me to understand what I wanted and did not want to do in graduate school and beyond. The internships also helped to make me a more competitive candidate for graduate school. Finally, the internships were important for developing a network - which is incredibly important as a scientist.
What work experiences (past or present) have been the most educational for you, and why?
My work in a remote field camp for several summers was extremely educational in that I learned fundamentals about field ecology, and I also learned about how to work with a group of people. Science is NEVER done in a vacuum. Whether you are the field assistant or the head of the lab, you will always have to learn to work with people and depend on others. This takes a very distinct group of skills.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I am working on lots of projects - too many to type up! But generally, my program focuses on enhancing restoration outcomes in arid habitats. So, I look at how to control weeds in deserts; I investigate relationships between native plants and trees in dry systems; I am attempting to develop fundamental strategies for using seedballs for restoration; and I study trait-based restoration approaches.
I also spend a lot of time doing outreach, which is the delivery of my science to end users (people like land managers and ranchers). These types of folks don't typically read peer review publications (where scientists tend to publish their results), so I do things like give talks at workshops and field days and write blog posts about my work so that people who need that information can access it. Some of my work can be found on my webpage at gornish.arizona.edu.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you (hobby, skill, interesting story)?
I used to be in a metal band called deathsintence. We did covers of 80's love ballads. It was awesome.
I am also the Director of a new program called GALS (gals.arizona.edu), which takes underserved high school girls out into the back-country to learn about science and develop leadership skills.
You won $10 million in the lotto. What would you do?
First the boring stuff: Pay off my house, and my brother's house. Put money in a college fund for my daughter and nephews. Donate $1 mil to charity.
Then the fun stuff: Buy an early edition of Don Quixote for my husband. Buy a flock of sheep for my backyard. Install a video game room in my house. I would probably start drinking more ridiculously expensive kombucha and wine too.
We enjoyed hearing about your exciting work, Elisa. Thanks for sharing!
If you'd like to learn more about Elisa and her projects, follow her here:
Check back next month for more Science Stories. Want to be featured? Contact us.
Did you hear the exciting news? G.E.M. Environmental won an Arizona Gives Day incentive prize for the most dollars raised within 24 hours. This means we earned an additional $1,250 for our Field Experience Program. Woohoo!!! A great big THANK YOU to all our donors who made this possible. We couldn't have done it without you!
Great job to all AZ non-profits who also placed. Read the full list of winners here.
Happy Earth Day! GEM loves to protect public lands and the animals that inhabit them, which is why we focus on protecting wildlife in the community and at abandoned mine sites in Arizona and New Mexico.
We love helping the community as much as we love the animals we go home to each night. In celebration of Earth Day, we thought it would be fun to share a little bit about who we are and the animals we love. Enjoy!
Meet Eric Welsh, GEM's Executive Director, and his dog Timber (pictured left), the Vova Scotia Tolling Duck Retriever. Timber is a rescue and previously feral dog from the Navajo Nation. His other dog Hondo (pictured right) is a mixed healer and rescue from the Coconino animal shelter. Eric is an Arizona native and has always been fascinated with the beauty and intrigue offered through National Forests and Public Lands. Eric’s dogs often accompany him to field work sites, providing support through their endless energy and curiosity.
Jessica R. Cook is GEM's Business Manager and Chairmen of the Board. She is deeply passionate about GEM's mission and protecting wildlife. Jessica was born and raised in Arizona and currently resides in Prescott with her husband Brandon, dogs Winslow and Bella, and two cats Damien and Pablo.
Meet GEM’s Public Relations Coordinator and Grant Writer, Amie Winters, and her dog Loki the pug. Amie is originally from California and currently resides in Prescott. Loki often accompanies her to various GEM project sites, like the PUSD Indian Ed Program community garden building project (pictured left). Loki is a certified therapy dog and loves to interact with people from all walks of life.
Mona Welsh, GEM's Treasurer and Secretary, has lived in Prescott with her husband Gary for over 30 years where they raised two children. Her mission GEM is to help develop and raise awareness for the scholarship program, which will enable STEM students to help in funding their college education costs. She is pictured here with her dog Timber.
Sharon Andrus Felker is GEM's Director of Scholarship. In addition to working at GEM, she is the Business/HR/Transportation Manager at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy (a Charter High School) in Prescott. Pictured here is her loving dog Primrose the rottweiler, who is also service trained.
Conner Gooding is GEM’s Geologic Consultant. He is a native of Texas and has worked in a variety of fields ranging from mineral exploration, education, materials testing and inspecting, to geologic consulting. He's pictured with his dog Carl, a mixed Heeler and reservation rescue who often accompanies him to job sites.
We hoped you enjoyed learning more about us and the animals we love.
We're excited to share another Scholarship Success Spotlight!
Our April spotlight is on Alexis Riche, GEM's first quarter 2019 scholarship recipient from Dallas, Texas. Alexis completed her undergraduate studies in Washington, D.C., while putting herself through school. She's now working toward a graduate degree in geology in Flagstaff, Arizona. As a first generation college student, she's come a long way. Alexis has moved around a lot, but no matter which state you find her in, she'll probably be typing avidly in a coffee shop.
My Current Work and Passion
My focus is on geochemistry, and I am currently working on two projects. One focuses on determining the source of uplift in the Colorado Plateau, which is currently unknown. The other focuses on bringing self-identified STEM students who may not have been exposed to geology before college into the fold. My ultimate goal is to teach geochemistry at a university level while conducting research I am passionate about. There is so much still to learn about the planet we live on, and I am excited to dedicate my life to unraveling a piece of the mystery and encouraging others to do the same. I especially think it is important to mentor students like me who, as first generation, did not really know how to go about continuing my education past high school and could really have benefited from a guiding hand.
What This Scholarship Means To Me
As a first generation college student, navigating academia has been difficult and expensive. I come from a relatively large family, and my parents couldn't afford to contribute to my college tuition or living expenses. Naive and in need, I took out thousands in student loans. This scholarship from GEM means that I can pay off some of that debt, which has been looming over me since I started this journey through higher education.
Why is STEM/geology important to you?
I chose geology because, unlike some other professional fields, it is completely exploratory. The chance to be a part of something that is so dynamic makes the prospect of working for the next several decades less intimidating or disheartening. Part of what makes geology so interesting is that it is truly applicable, because it is the study of the world we live in, and it integrates so many other sciences such as chemistry and physics. I also think that, as a woman and a first generation college student, it's important to represent those demographics within STEM fields.
Way to go, Alexis! We're proud to support your educational pursuits and wish you luck as you embark on your geological career.
Read more Scholarship Success Stories HERE.
Are you a STEM major? Consider applying for one of our scholarships! Visit our Scholarship page to learn more about eligibility and apply online.
Only a few more days left to apply for the STEM Education Outreach Specialist position.
This position was created in partnership with Arizona Serve and the deadline to apply is April 24th. Apply on the AmeriCorps website by clicking here.
#STEMjobs #arizonajobs #educationjobs #azjobs #prescottazjobs
GEM, in partnership with Yavapai College, is happy to announce that the first semester of our Field Experience Program has successfully concluded!
The program exemplifies our mission that science is for everyone, working with these goals in mind:
The program began with a series of lectures in Dr. Beth Boyd’s Environmental Geology (GLG110) and Historical Geology (GLG102) courses. Lectures were given by local professors and STEM graduate students, who visited these classrooms bi-weekly to offer engaging scientific curriculum in a variety of areas including geography, seismology, mineralogy, and more—helping students explore the relationship of these disciplines and how they relate to their everyday lives.
Additionally, a field trip was taken to the Drake Cement Mine in Paulden, AZ on April 12. The active-learning field trip gave students an opportunity to spend extended time contemplating ideas encountered in the classroom during the semester, and learning about potential career opportunities in their fields of interest.
As of spring 2019, we’ve conducted preliminary surveys detailing participant demographics, which are as follows:
-49% are low-income students (under $10K/yr)
-86% have never participated in an internship or applied learning project
-29% are first generation students
-32% don’t feel confident or prepared to pursue their educational goals
-40% are female
-49% are 18-20
-22% are undecided in their major
-23% identify as non-Caucasian (Hispanic/Latino or Native American)
Our goal is to expand the program into two additional classrooms at Yavapai College, while offering two additional field trips during 2019. We are also currently working with Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy and Prescott College to offer the program to these schools by 2020. Overall, the total reach will impact up to 400 students from 2019-2020. Sign up for our newsletter for updates.
How Can I Help?
GEM is supported by grants and donations. If you'd like to make a monetary donation, click here. We also have a Wish List.
The field of Earth Science contains sub categories such as geophysics, meteorology, oceanography, paleontology, and many more. At such a precarious point in Earth's history, issues such as climate change, severe pollution and threats of insufficient natural resources make Earth Science one of the most important branches within STEM. Many students are attracted to Earth Science careers, yet the specifics of what can be done with a degree in an Earth Science or Geology related program of study remain a bit confusing. Here we'll outline the major branches of Earth Science, summarize the responsibilities of each role and share the average salary and degree requirements within each category.
Sub Categories Within the Realm of Earth Science
Earth Science (also referred to as GeoScience) draws from the fields of geology, oceanography, meteorology, and even astronomy, since forces outside of our planet have a direct impact on its existence. Ten of the most popular fields in this industry include:
Internships Provide Valuable Experience for Earth Science Majors
Due to the specialized nature of careers within the realm of Earth Science, internships that provide hands on experience are invaluable when it comes to narrowing down your career options and developing a competitive resume. Many Earth Scientists do complete an advanced degree before beginning their careers, but since graduate programs are much more specialized than undergraduate programs, it is critical to have a clear understanding of which branch of Earth Science you're most attracted to before you select a program. Internship experience looks amazing on your resume and on graduate school applications - and will increase your chances of obtaining a full scholarship (or even fellowship) for your graduate studies. The paid internships provided through G.E.M. Environmental are ideal for Earth Science students, as our work emphasizes the importance of this branch of science.
G.E.M. Environmental supports STEM students through the provision of scholarships, paid internships, and field experiences. We hope the tips presented in our blog help you attain the career of your dreams!
Please feel free to share suggestions for future blog entries in the comment section below. If you're a STEM student, consider applying for one of our upcoming scholarships. And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date about our upcoming programs and opportunities!
GEM was invited to give a talk yesterday to a community of home schooled children, consisting of 26 families with 75 students who are currently studying rocks and minerals. Our Executive Director and Geologic Consultant, Eric Welsh, had the pleasure of talking about minerals, rocks, and why they are important to today's society.
His presentation also included a show and tell of some of GEM's most interesting minerals, fossils, and rocks collected while doing fieldwork.
This event is part of our Field Experience Program. Learn more about it here.
Thank you Kimberly Sapko for inviting GEM. We had a great time!
GEM is delighted to announce our latest Graduate Scholarship recipients. Congratulations to Alexis Riche and Sarah Robinson, both from Northern Arizona University.
Alexis plans to use her scholarship funds toward student loans, and Sarah plans to use her funds for travel/field experience. Way to go!
We are currently accepting applications for our Undergraduate Scholarships. More info can be found here.
Join us in welcoming GEM's newest sponsors! These generous sponsors helped us make our 2nd anniversary fundraising event a HUGE success. A great big THANK YOU from all of us at GEM!
Be sure to check out these amazing companies by clicking on the links below:
Watter's Garden Center
Falcon Trading Company
Jesse Robbins Jewelry