Four Agency Scientists Highlighted for International Day of Women in Science

 Marjorie Gale) Featured scientists (Top Left: Amy Alfieri, Top Right: Lindsay Miller, Bottom Left: Trish Hanson, Bottom Right: Marjorie Gale)

 

Amy Alfieri

Marjorie Gale

Trish Hanson

Lindsay Miller

 

Amy Alfieri | Wildlife Biologist, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department

What’s your job?

My job is to manage state lands, particularly wetlands and grasslands. I create, conserve and restore habitat (homes) and feeding areas (kitchens) for wildlife. I manage the water levels at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison to promote wildlife food sources and nutrient cycling. Recently, I have targeted areas to be planted as pollinator habitat and have worked with a farmer to investigate the use of cattle grazing to create grassland bird habitat. I maintain a lot of infrastructure as well – buildings, water control structures, dams, roads, gates, signs, etc. I also assist with the waterfowl project by working on banding operations around the state. In addition, I oversee the Dead Creek Visitor Center where people can learn about conservation and nature through interactive displays.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my is job is anytime I get to be outside. I especially love being on the state lands I manage in the Fall when I can see the benefits of the work we do.

What’s one of your most memorable days in the field?

My colleague and I were out on a marsh monitoring duck boxes and banding hens. In one box, we discovered a hooded merganser that was stuck, so we set her free. Having finished in the marsh, we loaded the canoe and drove down the road. As we were driving, I yelled for my colleague to stop because I spotted a baby barred owl in the road. I got out with my gloves on and put the owl up in a tree. We continued down the road to the railroad crossing and saw a little head bobbing in between the tracks. It was a mama mallard with 12 ducklings stuck between the tracks. I jumped out of the truck and guided them out so they could be on their way. After a long day of wildlife encounters, we made it back to the office. And the day finished with a black bear crossing in front of my car on the drive home. What a day!

What led you to a career in the sciences?

I wanted to be a writer when I first went to college, but I got bored with fiction. My advisor asked me what I liked. “Nature and birds,” I said. From there, he directed me to nature writing classes where I discovered I knew nothing about nature. That meant I had to take some science classes and there was no going back after that! I fell in love with the logic and reason and marvel of the natural sciences.

What advice would you give other women who would like to get into the sciences?

I recommend two things:

1. Be willing to travel anywhere for a job. Especially early in your career.

2. Take trainings any chance you get – chainsaw safety, boat certification, tractor certification, pesticide application, leadership trainings, etc.

Who do you look up to?

I have several professional mentors, but most certainly my supervisor John Austin, and one of our senior staff Kim Royar. On a global scale, Sir David Attenborough is my hero.

What inspires you?

Seeing wildlife thrive. It makes me smile.

My favorite way to spend a winter day in Vermont is… snowshoeing followed by a cup of hot chocolate.

 

Marjorie Gale | Vermont State Geologist and Director, Vermont Geological Survey, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

What’s your job?

I’m the 14th State Geologist of Vermont. The Vermont Geological Survey is charged with conducting research on the geology and topography of Vermont and we use our expertise to assist other government agencies and the public. I direct the activities of the Survey. Our work includes the application of mapping to groundwater chemistry, groundwater protection, landslide hazards, drought, mineral resources and general information about geologic features in the state.

What’s one of your most memorable days in the field?

One day while mapping bedrock in Vermont, we spent a significant amount of time explaining the local geology to a landowner. We then headed off into the woods for the day and when we returned, she had written a thank you note with sticks and flowers and left it by the car. We meet a lot of fantastic people in our travels to map geology.

What led you to a career in the sciences?

I always loved the physical sciences and music. At various times I considered being a music major or a philosophy major, but finally settled in as a Geology major. I loved mineralogy and crystal chemistry. I worked part time after getting my MS degree, then returned to work for the State of Vermont on the Bedrock Geologic Map of Vermont which we published in 2011.

What advice would you give other women who would like to get into the sciences?

The same advice as I give anyone thinking of a science career – get as much math and computer science background as possible. A good background in math, plus GIS and other physical sciences will set you apart from your competition.

Who do you look up to?

I do not have a role model. My dad always told us that life is a do-it-yourself project. I do have a great deal of respect for Michelle Obama

What inspires you?

I am definitely inspired and rejuvenated by being outdoors in distant and quiet places. I also thrive on a day in the field with some friends and colleagues. That is good exercise for the brain and the body.

My favorite way to spend a winter day in Vermont is… going to sugar-on-snow parties

 

Trish Hanson | Forest Health Entomologist, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation

What’s your job?

I am a forest health entomologist with the Forest, Parks & Recreation Department, where I study insects affecting Vermont’s forests.

What’s one of your most memorable days in the field?

Before the destructive emerald ash borer was discovered in Vermont last year, I was involved in bio surveillance work, looking for the destructive beetle by tracking the activities of a solitary ground-nesting wasp called Cerceris fumipennis, now known by the common name “smokey-winged beetle bandit.” To feed her young, the female wasp stocks her nest with Buprestid beetles (aka jewel or metallic woodboring beetles) including the emerald ash borer when present. The project involved visiting nest sites on baseball diamonds and netting incoming beetle-laden wasps. Wasp hunting is a little like fishing and a lot like a treasure hunt. Because the wasp excels at detecting buprestid diversity, we have realized a side benefit of this bio surveillance work, adding over 40 records to our state buprestid list since we began “wasp watching” in 2008. 

What led you to a career in the sciences?

I sometimes think of myself as the entomologist who collected herself. As a kid, I was afraid of insects. In hopes of helping me overcome my fear, my mom encouraged me to learn more about the insect world. I did, earning my PhD in “bugs,” in fact, and I haven’t stopped being captivated by these little creatures ever since. Though I’m a forest entomologist, I’ve also worked with phlebotomine flies that attack lizards, an aquatic weevil that feeds on milfoil and at times I’ve been pretty wrapped up in ticks.

What advice would you give other women who would like to get into the sciences?

Go outside. I encourage every girl to find her our own ways to connect with the living world around us and to try to make sense of what she finds.  

Who do you look up to and what inspires you?

People-wise, I’ve long been inspired by Edith Patch, the first female president of the Entomological Society of America. She believed that a child’s greatest mentor was nature and charmed people of every age with her passion for some of the world’s tiniest creatures. And of course, insects inspire me, as they do artists and chemists, composers and composters, engineers and chefs.

My favorite way to spend a winter day in Vermont is… rambling in the woods, keeping an eye open for snow-top spiders, wingless snow flies, scorpionflies and snow fleas. Though many insects enter diapause or migrate in winter, a thrilling group of snow-loving creatures is there if you keep your eyes open.

 

Lindsay Miller | Environmental scientist, Lake and Shoreland Regional Permit Analyst, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

What’s your job?

I help folks navigate the permitting and regulations associated with using and developing lakes and ponds.  While I’m not really in the lab as much as I used to be, I’m still out in the field and using my ecology brain to help bolster a better understanding of Vermont’s lakes.

What’s the best part of your job?

Best part: traveling around remote corners of northern Vermont AND seeing the lightbulb go on when people make the connection that actions on their land have an impact on the pond. It is very satisfying to have a conversation with someone and when I leave, they understand that that last cluster of trees on their shoreline is ecologically important and doing amazing things. Granted, this doesn’t always happen, but it’s great when it does.

What led you to a career in the sciences?

As I kid, I was either on my bike or “making potions” out of moss and twigs in the woods – I have always loved being outside and seeing what things were made of. Going into Biology and Environmental Science was a natural progression of my childhood interests.

What advice would you give other women who would like to get into the sciences?

Say yes to all opportunities that come your way! Is your teacher looking for help counting dead turtles on the side of the road as part of a population study? Does a fellow student need help dissecting fish for their dissertation? Does your coworker need someone to go tag some oysters out in the Gulf? You never know what might spark your interest and lead to something new.  (These are all things I’ve actually done…)

My favorite way to spend a winter day in Vermont is… Going for a run when it’s totally silent and the roads are all snow-packed and squeaky. And following that run up by eating something absurdly cheesy and delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

Julie Moore
Agency Secretary

Peter Walke
Deputy Secretary

1 National Life Drive
Davis 2
Montpelier, VT 05620-3901

(802) 828-1294