A two-time recipient of scholarships from the Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society — funded by the Audubon Art & Craft Festival — Jamie Myers is a biologist at the National Park Service in the Upper Delaware River. She recently took the time to share her experiences with us in an interview.
What is your background?
I am a lifetime resident of this area, born and raised in Wayne County, PA, and my parents still live in this area. After college I moved into the river valley. I spent a lot of time outside as a child. There was a stream close by my house and that was where I could be found most of the time, turning over rocks in that stream, and seeing what kind of aquatic life I could find. I would collect the aquatic life and I would keep notes on what I had found. I just always enjoyed that type of activity.
What motivated you to want to become a biologist?
It was my interest in the outdoors, our natural world and our natural surroundings. Also having a passion and compassion for the environment and environmental issues during my childhood. At that time it wasn’t that ordinary to bring your reusable cloth bag to the grocery store and those types of environmental activities that seem so commonplace these days, were newer concepts at the time. I have very fond memories of encouraging my parents, my grandparents and other people around me to take notice of the environment, and take a second look at what activities and what choices they were making to be more environmentally conscious themselves, and try to do their part so we all could help to preserve this beautiful place that we call home.
You were awarded a summer camp scholarship. Tell us about your experience.
I was able to go to Hog Island in 1991, which was the summer after my eighth grade year and it was my eighth grade Science teacher at the time who knew about the scholarship opportunity and encouraged me to apply for it, and I did. It was a great experience for me. It was great to be in that part of the country. When I first started having interest in being in the science field, I was more keen on becoming a marine biologist, so at the time, being able to spend a week off the coast of Maine in that marine environment and have the hands-on experience with looking at the tide pools and seeing what kind of life lived there, was really invaluable for me. It was very special for me, being able to correlate that back to the time that I had spent in my local fresh water stream next to where I was growing up. It was a very different environment. And then, just to be with all the other children who were like-minded as me. It was also impactful for me to see the counselors who were there — these adults, who had made these decisions of working in the field of environmental science and the field of ecology; and to see how passionate they were. Then I knew that that was what I wanted for my life, and then after spending time at Hog Island, I came home knowing without a doubt that I wanted to pursue a career in environmental science. What was the highlight for you there? – The experience as a whole, and to have such an opportunity at a young age. Also, to meet all those people; to be taught how to, to make environmental observations and keep an environmental journal; and all of those things wrapped into one — it was really good.
You were also awarded a college scholarship by NEPAS. Where did you go to college and what did you study?
I went to Lock Haven University, which is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology.
How did the scholarship help you with your career goals?
Of course, receiving money for your college tuition is extremely helpful. My parents were paying for part of my college tuition and I was paying for the other part myself. Financially, it was a huge help. Because it was a scholarship specifically targeted for environmental study, it was helpful for me to be able to pursue that career goal that I knew that I had since eighth grade: getting a degree in Environmental Sciences.
What would you say to students who are thinking of applying this year?
I would encourage anybody who is thinking of it to go for it! The experiences that they can have at summer camp will vary greatly from an experience in Northeast Pennsylvania — you get to experience a different type of ecosystem, and ecology. It is a worthwhile venture for anybody. I strongly want to encourage any young women who are interested in the field of environmental science, ecology, forestry to also apply. My experiences in my career thus far have been that it is primarily a male dominated field. It would be very exciting for more women to turn to this type of field for their career path. I would definitely encourage young women to apply!
Can you give them some ideas of how to pursue this scholarship?
I saw the information in the newspaper for the college scholarship; that was how I knew how to apply for it. It was my science teachers, both in middle school and high school, who observed me and who also encouraged me look into applying for these scholarships. I would encourage students to be in contact with their teachers, guidance counselors, and other adults that may have access to the resources that they need. It is based on their interest, whether or not they should pursue it.
What is your current position?
My title is Biologist, and I work within the Division of Resource Management here at the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, which is a unit of our National Park system. Within the National Park Service, there are different divisions or focus areas, such as Interpretation, Maintenance, Administration, Law Enforcement, and Resource Management. I have worked here for 15 years within this division, and I am very, very thankful that I am able to work for the National Park Service, and to be so close to home. As a child, I dreamed of wearing this uniform some day, and never thought that I would get the opportunity to do it so close to home.
Could you tell us about the work that you do?
Our primary responsibility is the river itself. As a biologist, I specifically focus on the resources of the river and the water chemistry. We sample the river water here, and maintain a Scenic Rivers Monitoring Program, which is a big part of my job. We have a laboratory here, where we process our water samples. I also do a lot of work with non-native invasive plant species. Also I do environmental education with school children. This is a fun opportunity for me to teach them about what a watershed is, what their watershed address is, what their roll is as a steward of their watershed, and how that affects the people downstream. It is a way for us to bring relevance to the watershed that they live in. I do GPS and GIS (Geographic Information System) work — mapmaking work. We do a lot of work in cooperation with other local, non-profit, state, and federal agencies.
What do you like most about your work?
Of course, the opportunity to be outside, it is a real perk. This watershed, this environment that I grew up appreciating, now I still get to go outside, and get my feet wet, and I still get to appreciate it. Just the variety of work that we get to do and the amount of people that we get to work with and working with the school children and helping to, hopefully, pique a little interest and environmental awareness in their lives. As a woman, for young girls to see a woman in the career of environmental science, it is all those things that I am very very grateful for. Being able to play a role in partnering with other likeminded agencies, organizations, and all of us working to preserve this watershed, this river valley, and this environment that we have here, that is so crucial to so many people. I am also very proud to be able to wear the National Park Service uniform, knowing all that it symbolizes for the American people.
Would you tell us about your hobbies? What do you do for fun?
I am very fortunate to have a husband and two young children, who are 3 and 5. They are my number one, and that is how I love to spend my time: with them. As a family we spend lots of time outside, we love to go camping, hiking and kayaking. Even with my children being as young as they are, they both have been kayaking on the Delaware River already in their young lives. In the wintertime, we do snowshoeing as a family. I also have interest in art and do a lot of sewing, scrapbooking and crafts when I get the chance.
As a biologist for the National Park Service on the Upper Delaware River, would you have any suggestions for NEPAS? And, why do you think that the public should support the Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society?
I would like to lend encouragement to the Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society, as I think it is a great organization. To people who may be considering getting involved or becoming a member, I encourage them to do so. Because, as an employee of the National Park Service, we know that the Audubon Society is a great ally for us. I know that they were present in this river valley when the Upper Delaware was designated as part of the Wild and Scenic River System. I know that members are present at meetings at which we are present, dealing with the same environmental issues. If people were looking on the Internet at a list of potential organizations that they could get involved with, I think that PA Audubon Society may have an advantage over others, because people are attracted to birds. But when you take a closer look at NEPAS, you quickly realize that they are so much more than birds. Hearing them speaking at other meetings that I have been at, I know that they have continued to be tremendous advocates for this river valley and the local ecology of Wayne County, PA. So I encourage and applaud the efforts of the organization.