Off the beaten path
Nathen Peck ’24 is a senior with a double major in biology and studio arts. He
also coordinates eco tours for Earlham College’s Joseph Moore Museum and is a leader for outdoor education, particularly anything related to climbing. His combination of interests has helped him build a portfolio of work that is both impressive and diverse
Peck’s studies have also taken him abroad to experience a different culture and setting. He spent a semester in New Zealand focusing on cultural and environmental issues.
“I was really interested in both of those things,” he said. “I think an indigenous way of thinking about biology is something I want to learn more about.
“I really wanted to go to New Zealand because I liked the outdoor component of it — this is a gorgeous place with a lot of outdoor opportunities, and I wanted to be outside in that sort of way.”
It was also was important for him to learn more about Māori culture, art and nature stewardship. Māori art focuses on weaving, carving, tattooing and painting and is an integral part of life in New Zealand.
“I want to approach science and the environment with less of a westernized viewpoint,” he said.
On this trip, his cohort did a lot of outdoor recreation and adventuring, focusing on well-known places and activities. Afterward, Peck and a group of friends stayed in New Zealand when the official trip ended — exploring off the beaten path.
“It was really nice to take it slower,” he said. “We’ve been doing more of a freeform adventure, which has been fun. The other night I slept in a cow pasture on the side of the road, because it got dark before we got to our destination.”
Madeline Gullion ’21
Madeline Gullion ’21 was an environmental sustainability major and outdoor education minor whose first position after graduation propelled her to her current career. In the fall of 2022, she worked as an urban naturalist at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., an environmental and community organization.
“I loved it. I spent every day outside learning so many new things,” she said about the seasonal internship that employs college students and recent graduates. The program provides interns with job skills and professional development opportunities so they are prepared for impactful careers in environmental fields, Gullion noted.
“As soon as a full-time position opened up, I applied, and now I’m a community forestry coordinator,” she said.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., is an environmental and community nonprofit with a mission to help people and nature thrive. The nonprofit contracts with the City of Indianapolis and Citizens Energy Group to plant 1,500 trees for each organization.
Gullion’s job is to see the project through from start to finish. She researches native species, locates appropriate places to plant trees and even helps with the planting herself when needed.
She spends a lot of time outside working—and she appreciates it.
“I’ve always loved being outside. I am disabled, and being active helps me function. It is hard for me to sit and live a sedentary lifestyle,” she said. “It is also great for my mental health to be outside and see the positive impact I’m making firsthand, instead of being removed by a desk.”
In fact, she envisions a future with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful for years to come.
“I hope to eventually become a certified arborist, but this is a place that I want to stay. It’s a place I can see myself growing. This is the start of my professional career, but I can also see myself staying for a while,” she said.
Regan Lowring ’17
Regan Lowring ’17 is using his environmental studies major to make a difference with the U.S. Forest Service as a lead firefighter. He currently works in Bend, Oregon, trying to keep the landscapes under control with prescribed burns and to respond to major fires in nearby areas.
The prescribed burns help control wildfires and potentially save houses and lives. During fire season, Lowring could be called out to any location that needs extra hands-on deck.
While it’s stressful not knowing where you’ll be working and having to spend significant time away from loved ones, Lowring loves the unpredictability.
“That’s what’s kind of awesome about the job,” he said. “Every day is different. We’re always changing to different jobs. It’s very flexible, and you get to go to cool parts of the country and world that other people may never see.”
While Lowring loves his job and the scenery, the work can be very challenging.
“Physically, it’s a lot,” he said. “We’ll be working as many as 16 hours a day, usually carrying 30-to-45 pounds of gear on our backs. We’re also working on the fire’s edge, so it’s super-hot. And it’s also challenging mentally. It takes a toll on you after working a full fire season.”
Still, he is doing what he loves and gets to work outside with gorgeous scenery.
“It’s pretty spectacular living in this place and working outside,” he said. “There are so many cool things about being outside in nature. It’s like this childhood joy that it brings.”
For the shore
Kiyomi Johnson ’24
Kiyomi Johnson ’24 has been involved in a little bit of everything during her time at Earlham College. A museum studies major with a biology focus, she has also spent a lot of her time working with Joseph Moore Museum (Earlham’s natural history and science museum) and a certain iguana named Judi Dench.
From lizard handling to student organizations, when Johnson sees something, she wants to be a part of on campus, she goes for it. That directness also helped secure her summer internship with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) on the shores of Chesapeake Bay about an hour from Washington, D.C.
During the summer of 2022, she spent time conducting research on parasites in shrimp and their effect on the ecosystem. Her job was to look at the prevalence of these parasites over time.
“This internship was a lot of field work,” she said. “This was the first time I actually got to go out and collect data.”
After completing this internship, she was offered another internship for summer 2023, this one a partnership between SERC and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. She spent most of her summer in Edgwater, Maryland, with some traveling to Washington, D.C., to dissect and collect her samples from the parasitology lab at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
This internship excited her because she knew she’d be working with curators of one of the biggest museums in the world.
“They’re doing what I think I want to do with my career,” Johnson said.
And she’s thankful to Earlham College for giving her this opportunity to explore her protentional career field now.
“Without Earlham, I wouldn’t have had either of these internships. I wouldn’t even have known that they existed,” she said.
Por amor a la geología
Katherine Liu ’23
Katherine Liu ’23, a geology major and Spanish and Hispanic studies minor, joined her two disciplines for a geology field camp experience in Spain through Epic Advantage, Earlham College’s funded research, internship or travel experience for all students.
“Field camp is a capstone class that geology students take their senior year,” she said. “It acts as a cumulative task where you both learn and apply a lot of field skills.”
Her cohort spent their days in the field looking at stratigraphic columns (think layers of rock types) and geological maps—something she didn’t have much hands-on experience with.
Studying structural geology helped refine what she wants to do in the future. It won’t be rocks alone.
Liu wants to combine her love of geology with the “human element.” With an interest in pursuing opportunities with the U.S. Geological Survey or state level geographic study, she wants her future work to focus on how geology effects human lives.
“I enjoyed talking to people about the work we were doing,” she said. “I was also doing that in Spanish, and being able to do that in another language made me proud of myself.”
Whatever she does in her future career, she wants it to be outside.
“I love the way being outside grounds you in a sense of place,” she said. “I enjoy being able to stand there and know where you are, as far as structural history or even when talking about changes in recent history.
“It also just feels good to be outside, up and moving.”
Berto Edwards ’22
Berto Edwards ’22 graduated with a major in neuroscience and an applied minor in contemplative studies. Now, he’s in Asheville, North Carolina, working as a wilderness field instructor.
“I work in wilderness therapy, leading groups of kiddos ages 10-to-17 in the woods. I teach them wilderness skills while also making sure they’re safe, warm and dry.”
Recommended for treatment through their therapists, these students look to Edwards to help them meet individual goals.
“The theory is that being in the wilderness is inherently therapeutic,” Edwards said. “We are separating kids from a troubling environment and putting them in a space that is both challenging and safe.”
And no prior outdoor experience is required—which makes Edwards’ job both difficult and rewarding.
“One of my favorite parts of the job is to work with kids who have no wilderness experience,” he said. “They go on a hike and halfway through they’re sobbing and miserable—I work with them a month later, and they’re the OG of the group, teaching and advocating for the newer kids.”
Edwards was inspired by both his therapist father and his experiences at Earlham College to pursue this opportunity. And he loves both working outside and making a difference in the lives of the children he teaches.
“Seeing these kids grow is one of the most gratifying things,” he said. “Sometimes this job is really hard.
I’ve had challenging weeks where I’ve wanted to pull my hair out and cry. But talking to the kids reaffirms that what I’m doing is helping.”
While Edwards loves this position, he will eventually return to school to become a professor, researcher or therapist. But he will always value the lessons he learned as a wilderness field instructor.
“As a job right out of college, this has been a really unique experience that I’ve learned a lot from,” he said.
Story written by Kelsey Mackey.
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