Field Work


Despite the difficulty of finding the right job in the present employment market, environmental studies major Ariana Chiapella '12 of Westford, Mass., soon will begin work at the Watershed Stewards Project in California, at the Marin Municipal Water District.

"Perseverance and enthusiasm is the best way to successfully find jobs in today's economic climate. It is also really important to stay involved, even if it means volunteering while working another job," Chiapella said.

In her new position, she will focus on restoring streams in vital California Watersheds that support trout and salmon populations.

"Without proper stream conditions - such as temperature, stream flow and native riparian vegetation - these species cannot successfully reproduce, as they are very sensitive," Chiapella explained. "Without successful reproduction of these species in freshwater streams, the ocean-dwelling adult populations will decline, which is bad news for both the fisherman and fish consumers. It also makes sure that adjacent communities have healthy stream ecosystems and environments."

Before getting the job, Chiapella directed the Leaders-In-Training program for the Massachusetts Audubon Nature Center. There, she worked with teens from Boston, aged 14-16, in a program that acted as a bridge between the summer camp and counselor-in-training programs.

"I created lesson plans, activities and field trips oriented around environmental education, increasing the teens' knowledge and command of basic environmental and ecological concepts, independent thinking and problem solving, as they gained skills working with young children, planning and creating activities for young campers, and community leadership," she explained.

Chiapella said her experience as a teacher's assistant for Dr. Elena Traister helped prepare her for her position at the Audubon Nature Center. And, many of the environmental labs she did at MCLA provided her with experience very similar to the field work she will do with the Watershed Stewards Project. 

"I also completed individual research with Elena and a few other students on a project that she began, and that I was involved with throughout my time at MCLA. We tracked sources of e. coli contamination in the Hoosic River," she explained. "This exposed me to all of the aspects of research, including planning, grant and protocol writing, and Geographic Information Systems.

"In addition, the fact that the environmental studies program is all-encompassing and provides classes and experience in policy, law, and community outreach in addition to research and science is analogous to the goals of the Watershed Steward's Project.

And, in Dr. Daniel Shustack's "The Environment of South Florida" travel class, "Instead of learning in the classroom, we got to learn right there in the field: running through palmetto prairies, snorkeling in the coral reefs, bird watching at Ding Darling, and countless other 'lessons' with the most enthusiastic professor I have ever met."

At MCLA, Chiapella says she had a major advantage over other students with similar majors at any of the larger schools because the small student population makes it easy to get to know the professors and become involved with their research.

"I formed priceless relationships with Elena and Dan. They are so enthusiastic about what they do, and are so brilliant that it is impossible not to learn; impossible not to want to learn," she said. "They also care so much about their students and are willing to go above and beyond to make sure we succeed. It was a privilege to have them as professors."