This week’s Scientist Spotlight features Brittany Killingbeck, a graduate student studying Ecosystem Restoration at Niagara College in Ontario, Canada. Our Scientist Spotlight series features STEM professionals who volunteer in our pen pal program, Letters to a Pre-Scientist.
Brittany’s favorite part about her job is working outside and watching sites transform into a healthy ecosystem that were previously degraded. Brittany finds gratification in returning to an area to find native plant and animal species after her and her team catalyzed restoration.
What is something everyone gets wrong about your job or line of work?
Most people assume we “fix” a problem within an ecosystem and it works again, like fixing an oil leak in a car. Our job is not to fix it, but rather to help the ecosystem get back on track to what it wants to be – a field that was once a forest usually wants to be a forest again! We reintroduce a part of the ecosystem that has been damaged or removed, usually plants, and nature takes care of the rest.
What motivated you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always loved the outdoors and biology, even when I didn’t know what science was. As a kid I would keep bugs in my room, explore the stream by my house, and follow birds to see what they were doing. I always wanted to know more about the plants and animals I saw, and this naturally led me towards an undergraduate degree in biology. As an adult I see how much humans have impacted the environment. My desire to counteract the destruction of nature has brought me to my current studies in ecosystem restoration.
Why do you participate in LPS? Why is outreach important to you?
Science outreach is incredibly important, especially for youth. Educating students about STEM and STEM professionals allows them to develop a greater appreciation for science, which they will carry with them into adulthood. By participating in LPS I hope to inspire students to explore their options and help them realize it is possible to pursue a career or hobby in science.
What do you like to do for fun?
In my free time I enjoy going on hikes and photographing the wildlife. Being able to watch animals interact with each other and their environment is always a fantastic experience. At home I love to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen, especially ones that involve fermentation! In the warmer months I also grow a vegetable garden – spending time tending to the plants is a great way to destress from a long day.