Conservation Programs Manager
DCNR Office of Conservation Science
Jessica visited the Waymart Wind Farm in Wayne County, PA, with the Wind & Wildlife Collaborative
to get a sense of the magnitude of a working wind farm. Photo by Greg Czarnecki
I have lived in Harrisburg for the past five years, although I was born and raised just outside of Pittsburgh.
I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a B.A. in zoology, then went on to Tufts University and earned a M.A. in urban and environmental policy and planning. My original intent was to be a veterinarian, but after working in the environmental education field in Ohio for a year, and then interning with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, I got a taste for government outreach and policy work ... and it stuck.
I returned to Pennsylvania after graduate school, living in Pittsburgh until I stumbled upon the Pa. Management Associate Program. This is a one-year management training program in Harrisburg, where early to mid-career-level people rotate through six state agencies and then are placed in a permanent position.
My permanent position landed me in DCNR’s Office of Conservation Science. For the past four years I have worked for DCNR on a variety of topics. A lot of my time is split between invasive species issues and sustainable landscape projects. I help provide technical assistance to state employees, local government staff and others about how to control invasive plants, use native plants in their landscaping, and maintain their lands in a more environmentally-friendly manner. I do this through conference presentations, newsletter and magazine articles (including this publication), festivals and other outreach events. Because WRCP has so few staff, I help them with the grant review process and coming up with activities for the Wild Resource Festivals. I was even one of the actors in the Cosmo’s World videos!
In my spare time, I love to be outdoors, hiking, biking and kayaking. Some of my favorite outdoor memories related to my job are participating in the Schuylkill Sojourn and the Great River Adventure on the Susquehanna. Pennsylvania is certainly blessed with a multitude of scenic rivers!
I’m also a novice birder and artist. I love to paint, draw and take photos, mostly of birds. Singing is another passion of mine. I’m in a singing group through work, called "The Earthtones," and I’ve been known to karaoke a song or two now and then.
My interest in conservation formed at a very early age. I can remember being in the woods behind my house, pretending I was an archaeologist and biologist, searching for arrowheads and toads. As I grew older, what really left an impression on me was seeing the way land has changed and been developed. What was once a farm field or stand of trees became a big-box store or housing development.
I do what I do in order to inspire future generations to care about the state’s natural resources. Everything, from the tiniest stream insects to the raptors in the sky, has a value, even if you can’t quantify it with a monetary value. I want people to realize that and appreciate life in all its forms, for the simple fact that it exists.
I went into the conservation field because I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to every special natural place in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. I care about WRCP and work with them because they do great things. Their focus on research of statewide importance and their devotion toward education strike a chord with me. It has been a great experience to be part of WRCP’s mission.