Kristen’s Public Engagement Journey
Kristen’s journey in public engagement with science began at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Zoo Crew, with their teen volunteer program. As an education volunteer, Kristen interpreted educational content to audiences of all ages throughout the zoo. She developed a new educational program in fulfillment of a teen leadership requirement, trained as an animal handler for small educational animals, and supervised an animal enrichment group.
Regular animal enrichment is required at zoos for accreditation by the AZA, or Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Enrichment is defined as items or activities designed to stimulate an animal’s natural behavior and provide variety in their daily routine. Teen volunteers, like Kristen, led public presentations where they answer questions from guests about the animals, the enrichment they receive, and the importance of enrichment.
Kristen’s interest in public engagement with science and informal education grew from there. Most recently, Kristen worked as a camp counselor with the Explore Nature! division of Cincinnati Parks this summer, engaging with campers from four to fourteen years old. She educated campers on topics such as fossils, local flora and fauna, wild edibles, and more. One of her favorite camp memories is when a camper made a memorial to Salvador Dali, a catfish, out of clay. Salvador is one of the educational animals at California Woods Nature Preserve, where he helps teach visitors about wildlife and conservation.
Kristen graduated from the University of Cincinnati (UC) in December 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, and an Undergraduate Certificate in Bioethics. As this suggests, her educational background is interdisciplinary and broadly rooted in the natural sciences and humanities. As an undergraduate, she took courses such as Ecology and Evolution, Interdisciplinary Field Experiences at the UC Center for Field Studies, How Science Works, Environmental Justice, and more.
Kristen returned to UC this fall as a Master of Arts student in Philosophy. As a graduate student, she is building on her interests by studying topics such as philosophy of science with PEWS Faculty Affiliate Dr. Lucas Dunlap and exploring Food Systems and the Demands of Justice through an independent study with PEWS Faculty Affiliate Dr. Eduardo Martinez. Kristen became involved in PEWS as an undergraduate and is grateful to expand that involvement as a graduate intern. She is eager to see what role she can play to help expand and enrich the interface between science and the public to benefit all stakeholders.
After she graduates, Kristen hopes to remain in the Cincinnati area and continue working in a non-profit, business, educational, or governmental organization focused on sustainability. Throughout her time at the University of Cincinnati, Kristen has come to love and appreciate the green community that exists within Cincinnati. She is particularly excited about the Cincinnati 2030 District as members strive to meet a collective commitment to reduce their buildings’ energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 50% by the year 2030.
It is an exciting time for both public engagement with science and sustainability in the greater Cincinnati area, and Kristen cannot wait to be a part of it all.