Meet Sarah Sherman. She is a Systems Engineer My friends at NASA, the Climate Kids, spoke with Sarah Sherman about her job as a systems engineer. She has what is a called a green career — a career that helps others make good choices that don’t hurt the environment. Green jobs also mean that we can learn how the environment works. Then we can know how to protect it. One way we learn about Earth is with satellites. Some of them go around Earth and observe it. That means they take pictures or measure things to learn more about how things work. This is what they talked about … Climate Kids: Sarah, what do you do? Sarah: I do systems engineering for something called SMAP. That means I worked on the planning, development, testing and launch. Now I am on the operations team, where we send instructions to SMAP. CK: What is SMAP? Sarah: SMAP stands for Soil Moisture Active Passive. It is a spacecraft that orbits Earth. That means it is a machine that goes around Earth. It looks at how much water is in the soil. It will help us understand a lot more about the water and energy cycles on Earth. CK: What does SMAP look like? Sarah: It has a refrigerator-sized body with solar panels. It also has a big antenna that helps it find out how much water is in the top layer of soil. CK: What’s the big deal with water in the soil? Sarah: We know very little about how much water is in the soil in different parts of the world. It’s important to understand where all the water is. If we know this, we can learn more about weather, droughts and floods. We can also learn more about the plants that grow there. CK: How many people do you work with? Sarah: There are hundreds of people involved in the SMAP mission. I work with lots of people every day. Some days I might write a sequence (a string of commands to the spacecraft) on my own, and then meet with a group of four engineers to review it. They provide suggestions based on their experience, and I use their feedback. Other days, I might be doing testing with just one other person. CK: Why do you need to meet with so many people to do one thing? Sarah: The spacecraft is so complex that no single person will know everything, which is why we rely on teamwork so much. We also have lots of people double-checking our work. A mistake can result in loss of science data. It could even damage the spacecraft. Sending just one command requires a minimum of two people. CK: What do you do most days? Sarah: We have a morning meeting at 8:30 a.m., where different teams report on their status. Then we plan for the day. After that, I either sit in the flight director or systems chair to support daily operations. That includes preparing messages to send to the spacecraft, planning future activities, and solving any problems we see. Sometimes the project scientist comes in to tell us some early science results. That’s really rewarding! CK: What is your favorite part of your job? Sarah: My favorite part right now is the variety of tasks. I get to interact with every part of the spacecraft. One week, I worked with the guidance, navigation and control team. Another week, I told the spacecraft how to move to change its orbit, which is what we call a maneuver. I also work with the communications system to build the background sequence, which is our way of telling the spacecraft when and how to send data back down to Earth’s ground stations. There is never a day exactly like the last. CK: How did you get interested in space? Sarah: I’ve wanted to work at NASA since I was a teenager. My interest in engineering came from playing with LEGO, fort building, and tinkering with tools in my basement as a kid. Also, I could fly a plane before I could drive a car! CK: How can I become an engineer? Sarah: Ask lots of questions. Take things apart. Learn to lead and take initiative. Think of creative solutions to problems. Get comfortable with math and science fundamentals now, because you’ll keep building on them as you advance further in your education.
What’s It Like To Be A…Zookeeper What role does a zookeeper have at the zoo? As a Zookeeper and Animal Care Supervisor, my role is to make sure the animals I work with are well cared for. Observations, feeding and cleaning are all part of the job. I also spend time communicating with other departments and working with our staff nutritionist and veterinarians when needed. How do the animals at the zoo end up there? In today’s modern zoo, animals come to us from many places. Some were kept illegally as pets, some were injured in the wild and can’t be re-released and now take sanctuary at the zoo. Others are in zoos because they have nowhere else to go due to habitat loss in the wild. Many animals are born at the zoo as well, some are even second and third generation zoo born individuals. Why are zoos important places for both the animals they house and the people that visit? Unfortunately, for many species there just isn’t a safe place for them in the wild anymore. Zoos are truly a sanctuary for many animals, a last safe place to live and hopefully prevent extinction of their kind. This goes right into the second part of the question, it is so important to see and be near these animals. They (people) get to know the animals, they gain a better understanding of the individual and the species and are inspired to help protect them. The San Diego Zoo is a great example of having people not just visit the zoo but also join us in our global conservation efforts. The zoo is an important place for everyone. What is a typical day like for you? Animals do tend to have routines, so our days can be pretty predictable. We start early in the morning with walking through our area to check on the animals, we meet with our team to discuss the day’s events and from there it’s a lot of cleaning and feeding. As we move through our area we are observing the animals as well. From there, keepers typically prep all the fresh food for the animals as well. Oh, and throughout the day we also do keeper talks. That’s when we talk to our guests at the zoo about the animals. What does it take to be a zookeeper? At the San Diego Zoo you need to have a bachelor’s degree, usually in biology, zoology or a similar course of study. Many have degrees in animal behavior or ecology, as well. You also need to love animals and not mind working weekends and holidays. After all, the animals don’t care what day it is, they still need to be taken care of. A strong passion for animal care on all levels is truly important that way you don’t mind going to work on a weekend. When and how did you know that you wanted to be a zookeeper? I have always had an ongoing curiosity about the natural world. With that there is an innate fascination with biology and everything that includes. Right before high school I learned you could actually have a career working with animals and educating others about them. At that point, I knew I wanted to work at a zoo. What is your favorite part of your job? Honestly, that is really hard to answer because there are a lot of favorite parts to my job. I’d have to say the top two favorite parts are, the shared bond that develops between myself and the animals and also the moments that I get to see someone making a connection with an animal they just met at the zoo. I see the excitement and wonder they have and I know I helped make a difference. What is the most challenging part of your job? The worst part of the job is that we humans tend to live longer than some of the animals we work with. It’s just the nature of things that certain species don’t live as long as we do. The biggest challenge is having to say goodbye. What is your favorite animal and why? I absolutely love the binturong! Sometimes called a bearcat, they are native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia. I have had the pleasure of working with two different binturongs during my career and have loved every minute of it. Now I know, you are probably wondering what the heck is a binturong, but there just isn’t enough space here to go into all the cool details. So I challenge you to go to the zoo and find out more! What is something really cool about zoos that most people don’t know? It has always fascinated me that centuries ago zoos where just collections that wealthy people had to show off to other wealthy people. And now today, most zoos are the last stand for many species facing extinction. We want everyone to know about these amazing animals, learn about them and join us in ending extinction. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working? Oh, you are probably going to think I am crazy… But I love going to the zoo. Yes, I’m “that guy” that goes to work on his day off. But seriously, if you worked where I do, you would too! Going to the zoo when not working is a completely different day than when I am working, and I love it!
Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself. My name is Aimee Tomcho. Originally from northern Virginia, I have lived in North Carolina since 1998, beginning on the coast and now in the mountains. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in natural resources at a young age when I began to notice the birds in my backyard. My “spark” bird was the scarlet tanager, which generally sings from the treetops but came down to our bird feeder one day. My first “real” job was with a county park in Virginia where I worked my way up from selling hotdogs as a concessionaire to climbing in the treetops as a ropes course instructor. While I was studying wildlife sciences at Virginia Tech, I was able to volunteer for many types of conservation activities and get experience in everything from black bears to salamanders and aquatic invertebrates to ducks. Whenever people ask me what they can do to help wildlife, I always recommended volunteering your time. It not only allows you to learn so much about nature, but also provides a very important contribution to the world of science! I spent some time after college working with the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in the longleaf pine forests of Florida and North Carolina. I earned a master of science degree from Clemson University studying the effects of fire in Appalachian oak forests. I now focus my time on bird conservation efforts with Audubon North Carolina as a conservation biologist. I have two inquisitive and energetic sons, ages 8 and 10, who sometimes get to help me when I work with birds and other animals. How are you associated with the Audubon Society? I work for Audubon North Carolina, which is one of 22 states that have offices of the National Audubon Society. I am also a member of the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, one of 10 Audubon chapters in North Carolina. What does the Audubon Society do and why is this work important? Our mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. This work is important because I believe we are responsible for our “piece of the puzzle.” Audubon’s work considers “Flyways” (the flight path used in bird migration) as our piece of the puzzle since many birds migrate to Central and South America. But your piece of the puzzle could be your backyard! What exactly does a conservation biologist do? A conservation biologist studies different habitats and the organisms that live within these habitats (A habitat is made of the physical and biological surroundings of an organism. For example, a habitat can be a forest or it can be a field). With this knowledge, a conservation biologist is able to understand how each part of every habitat fits together to make an ecosystem. Therefore, when something becomes imbalanced (like when the number of animals in that habitat decline), we are able to use our knowledge to help restore the balance. What training does it take to be a conservation biologist? Most biologists get a bachelor of science degree from a college or university. Many biologists study for advanced degrees as well, such as a master of science and even a Ph.D., or doctoral degree. What is a typical day at work like for you? Much of my work is based on the seasons. In spring, conservation biologists get really busy! Spring is when animals look for mates and have babies, so they are often more visible during these months, making it a little easier for biologists to study them. Spring is especially important for ornithologists, or biologists who study birds, because this is when many birds migrate back to the places they make nests. I study the golden-winged warbler, which flies from as far away as Ecuador in South America to make a nest in North Carolina! So in the spring, we do a lot of surveys either by listening for birds (they each have their own song) or watching birds closely with a spotting scope or binoculars. Sometimes we set up nets to catch birds so we can take measurements and put bands on their legs. When they have bands on their legs, we can identify each individual more easily. What do you love most about your job? I love that, in my own small way, I am helping conserve earth’s resources for generations to come. Spending time outside interacting with nature also reminds me how humans are but one part of this big, wide world. What are some challenges you face in your job? Sometimes we have to traverse challenging terrain or be out in all types of weather, but it’s really not that bad. Why is conservation so important? Nature is really neat in that most resources are renewable, or they come back with time (think about trees growing into a forest). But sometimes, humans are not giving nature enough time or space to regrow. Nature sustains us (think about what your house is made of or the food you eat), and we need to make sure we take care of it. What is something most people don’t know about conservationism? There are a lot of people studying nature every day, either in their job or in their free time. But there is still so much we don’t know! Nature is a wonderful mystery we may never completely solve. What do you like to do when you are not working? I like to travel, go camping with my family and go kayaking. What is your favorite kind of bird and why? I like the brown creeper. They live in every continental U.S. state, including Alaska. They’re camouflaged like bark and are hard to see as they “creep” around on the side of a tree. What role do birds play in monitoring the health of the environment and the planet? Birds are really important because they can fly, which…
Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself. My name is Chelse Stevens. I am an Account Executive with Fidelity Investments in Knoxville, Tenn. I have been helping individuals reach their financial goals for more than five years. I went to Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., where I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in business and minors in accounting and Spanish. I also played soccer and tennis. I was named a candidate for Woman of the Year with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society for my philanthropic work in the community. I started my career with Capital Financial Group as a Financial Planner and transitioned to Fidelity as an Account Executive in 2014. I have a handsome husband and two rambunctious dogs (Lucca and Nola). What does a financial planner do? A financial planner helps people understand how the money they earn can work harder for them. Our job and passion is to help people navigate one of the most important topics to them: personal finance. I help people figure out how to take care of not only themselves, but their families for the long run. My goal is to make their lives more enjoyable because they have confidence that the money they saved could be enough for them to live the kind of life they want to enjoy. Why is financial planning important? Think of a financial planner like your family practice doctor who makes sure that all of your vitals are good and keeps you healthy. A financial planner does the same thing for your finances. It’s really important to make sure you or someone you trust is watching your money so it is doing what it needs to do to take care of your family now, and for the long haul. When/how did you know you wanted to be a financial planner? I realized I wanted to be a financial planner when I was a senior in college. Ever since I started working at the age of 13, I had always been good with money, and I enjoyed the finance part of what I learned in college. I met a financial planner when I was a senior and realized that was what I wanted to do in life: help people deal with money. What kind of training does it take to be a financial planner? There are a lot of different training programs for becoming a financial planner. First, they should have a college degree, preferably in business of some kind. Then they must get a license that qualifies them to talk about different financial options. Then, after three years in the business, they can test for their CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation. Even after you get your certifications, you must take extra continuing education courses to stay current with your licenses. I am always learning! What is a typical day like for you? Each day I come into the office and look at my task list to see what I have planned for the day – whose plan do I need to work on before they come in? Whom do I need to call to wish a “Happy Birthday?” Whom am I meeting with today? On a typical day, I meet someone new to help, but I also continue to help existing clients. Every day I learn something new, for instance, about a new financial tool that people might have questions about or how to fix a new numbers problem for a client so that they can be confident about their finances. I also learn about what’s happening in the stock market. What do you love most about your job? I love that moment after you have helped someone with their financial plan. There is a sense of relief and gratitude for making the process easy, and knowing that they now have one less thing to worry about. What are some challenges that come with your job? Because money is a very personal topic, and sometimes difficult to understand, there can be a “language barrier” when explaining how personal finance works. Educating people to help them understand what some of the industry terms mean in plain language is an important part of what I do. What is something interesting that most people don’t know about financial planning? Many people don’t realize that financial planners can help you manage your paycheck after you retire. It’s also not uncommon for us to share in the personal life events that matter most to people, like the loss of a loved one or the birth of a child. We communicate with people not only about money, but also about the moments that matter most in their lives. What do you like to do when you are not working? When I’m not working, I like to spend time with my husband Scott and our two boxer dogs, Lucca and Nola. We enjoy hiking, playing sports and spending time with our friends and family in lovely Knoxville, Tenn. Do you have any tips for parents and kids about money and finances? Save, save, save. Keep the experience visual and use a clear jar for saving. Make it a family affair. Also, know that this is a process of trial and error. Parents can also think about matching their kids’ savings. For example, if the kids saved $20 towards a long-term goal, the parents can match a portion of their savings amount. This is especially helpful when kids are saving towards larger items, like a bike, car or college. Overall, our parents are our role models when it comes to developing healthy habits: saving, spending less than you make and keeping track of what you have. If, as a parent, you don’t know whether you have the tools readily available to set a good standard, turn to professionals, friends and other resources that can help coach you on your way. Fidelity has a Viewpoint article on Fidelity.com about how parents can help their kids learn more about money: www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/tips-for-raising-a-saver. Thanks so…
Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself My name is Nicholas Calias, CEC, CCA. I am the Corporate Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage for The Colonnade Hotel & Brasserie JO. I have been running the kitchen for more than 20 years; I was named Boston ACF Chapter Chef of the Year in 2013. I run world-renowned Chef Jean JOHO’s traditional French Brasserie.I started cooking at age 11 in my parent’s restaurant. I went to Newbury College in Brookline, Mass., for Culinary Arts. I took my first executive chef role at age 21 at The Beach House restaurant, a fine dining restaurant in Hampton, N.H. I then became the Executive Chef at The Sheraton Ferncroft in Danvers, Mass., and then went to work for HEI Hotels, traveling around the country helping at a number of hotels as a task force executive chef. I have been at the Colonnade for more than eight years. I have a beautiful wife and three amazing children (that love to cook). What does it take to be a chef? Passion, passion, passion! Being a chef is great; you get to be creative, intense, motivated, patient, etc. But you have to love to cook, not like to cook. Being a chef is all I have ever dreamed of since I was 11 — my 8th grade yearbook, under future occupation, was to be a chef. What are some of the challenges that come with being a chef? Challenges, well there are always some. First, knowing when enough is enough. Chefs like to keep pushing and pushing it, and simple is sometimes better. Being a chef means working a lot; it’s tough on families and relationships. You have to be in 150 percent as a chef. Knowing how to manage everything is a challenge. Finding the right staff to support you is always a challenge as well. Chefs like to think everyone is like us — that’s where the patience comes in, working with staff and making them better. There is no greater feeling than seeing one of your team members moving up and becoming a chef. What do you love most about your job? I love everything about my job — the interaction with staff and guests, the creative part of menus and cooking, but the one thing I love is the busy time of the night. When things are happening and everyone is moving like a well-oiled machine and dinners are just flying out — that type of adrenaline is awesome. When/how did you know you wanted to be a chef? When I was 11, my parents decided to buy a restaurant in New Hampshire. I was given the choice either to wash dishes or cook — I chose to cook. By the time I was 12, even before I could throw a curve ball, I could tell you what a medium rare or rare steak feels like. I could run my father’s entire 120-seat restaurant by the time I was 14. There was no turning back after that; I was hooked. Why did you choose to specialize in French cuisine over a different kind of cooking? Truly, in school, that’s where it begins. Everything comes from French cuisine: our techniques, sauces, etc. Being at the Colonnade makes it easy, with a 200-seat French restaurant; it allows us to really dig deep into our French cuisine. What are some things that are special/different about French cooking and French cuisine? To us, French cuisine is all of our training; it’s where our love and passion started and continues to grow. The great thing about the French cuisine is that we can recreate and reintroduce items over and over with new twist to create something new and different. What is a typical day like for you? A typical day begins at about 9 a.m. with a walk through of all the walk-ins and greeting the staff. I then meet with the sous chefs and executive sous chef to review daily business and reservations. Next, I meet with my banquet chef to go over the day’s events. I then meet with the front of the house staff to see what they are doing and to check their business levels. The day typically will consist of my banquet chef and me playing with new dishes or the restaurant chefs showing me new specials. Then dinner service starts and it’s all expedited then. We run a no-slip system, which means we call the food to the cooks, and they cook. This help the cooks stay on track and keep concentration. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a chef? Love to cook, feel it in your bones, read and read more. Never settle and always strive for perfection. When you think you have nailed it, then move on to the next or take it apart and do it over. What inspires you? My first inspiration was my dad; he taught me the basics and a sense of urgency. Now food inspires me; to look at a product and visualize what I can do with it is great. I want every person that leaves my restaurant to be blown away. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working? I love being with my family, cooking at home with my kids or cooking for friends. What is your favorite thing to prepare? To eat? Lamb, hands down. It must come from my Greek background. A simple rack that has been seasoned with thyme and rosemary, roasted with lemon — so good! Can you tell our readers something cool about being a chef that most people don’t know? We really don’t yell and throw things; we are compassionate people that just strive for everyone to be their best. It’s not what you see on TV. It’s a hard, competitive field, and if you are not trying to be the best, some one else is. Thank you so much — your job…
Meet Gina Haney! She is an architectural historian. Thanks so much for talking with me today. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? I have two daughters, Ella and Matilda, who are in the 5th and 2nd grades. Although they don’t get to join me on work trips, I enjoy sharing experiences from the field with them and their classmates at school. How did you first become interested in architectural history? I first became interested in architectural history after working as an archaeologist during and just after college. Archaeology is often dusty and slow work, sometimes without much interaction with people. I switched to architectural history because the concept of examining different layers of history is the same, but all of the work is above ground! I started working in Iraq after working in Egypt for a few years. In Iraq, I consult for an organization known as the World Monuments Fund; they have projects on all seven continents. I thought working with architecture in Egypt was historic until I began working in southern Iraq in Mesopotamia. The architecture here is even earlier. What does an architectural historian do? An architectural historian studies the architecture of the past. In my work, I not only look at older buildings and structure, but also connect with the people who lived in these places in the past and in the present. Even though I am considered an architectural historian, I also examine landscapes which are shaped by humans and nature. What is a typical day like for you? When I am in the field, the day usually begins early.It depends on the nature of the project, but I am usually surveying a collection of buildings or communities and assessing their condition. I observe the building, take notes, make a basic sketch and take a photo and a GPS point for mapmaking purposes. I often collect the oral histories of the place by speaking with people who have some sense of historical context or live in it and are adding their own layer history to the site. I also like to make short films as I think these best convey the spirit of the places I work in. Evenings and days not in the field are spent compiling the data and generating the reports and film. When and how did you realize you wanted to become and architectural historian? I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was very young. I was fascinated by the findings of Egyptologists and the artifacts from King Tut’s tomb touring the United States. When in college, I first worked as an archaeologist at a historic building. I became more interested in the process of looking at buildings for clues to the past and switched from archaeology to architectural history after college and before graduate school, where I formally studied architectural history. What does it take to be an architectural historian? In order to become an architectural historian, you need to know the historyof architecture from across the globe, from ancient to modern. I think it also helps to have lots of field experience, especially if you want to work on actual sites that are still standing. I have been able to work on sites in Africa, Asia and North and South America. Tell our readers something cool about Iraq and its architecture. I recently worked on a project at Babylon in the south of Iraq. Babylon is a site steeped in history but also a site of great myth and legend. Babylon has been, by far, the richest, most complex site I have ever worked on. My favorite part of this project was working closely with Iraqis to tease out fact from fiction and to help redefine this site so that people from around the globe can connect to its diverse histories. Babylon has so many interesting facts, it is difficult to choose one to tell you about. However, one of my favorite things to remember is that among these famous ruins there lives a globally threatened duck, the marbled teal. When compiling the histories of this place, it was important not to overlook the natural systems that have evolved over time. The marbled teal reminded us of this aspect. What do you love most about your job? Personally, it was also interesting to see the Tower of Babel. An architectural site featured in many religious texts and a place of legend, this site has been robbed of its bricks for hundreds of years and looks completely different from the image I had in my mind. I love being out in the field and being able to apply my skills as a architectural historian to sites around the world. Can you tell our readers about something you are working on right now? Now I am working with Kurdish and Iraqi professionals from around the country who are interested in cultural heritage management. We meet every other month in Iraqi Kurdistan to discuss architectural history, archaeology, tourism and many other subjects related to heritage. I have learned so much more about the country and its architectural history. What do you like to do when you are not working? I like to read, knit, cook and relax at home. What first attracted you to Iraq and its architecture? I was first asked to work in Iraq by the World Monuments Fund in 2009. I am still working in the country, but now in the north, in Iraqi Kurdistan, and learning even more about the architecture of this diverse country from many different colleagues in Iraq.
What exactly does a woodwright do? Woodwright is an interesting word, in that it may not be possible! “Wright” means maker, so a wheelwright made wheels, a shipwright made ships, a cartwright made carts, but how do you make wood — trees do that! Still woodwright is a name for someone who makes things out of wood, not someone who makes wood. How long have you been working with wood? I have been working wood since I was very young. I still have a little woodworking plane (a wood smoothing tool) that I bought when I was 12. When and why did you first become interested in woodworking? I have always enjoyed working with wood, and the library had lots of wonderful books for kids on how to make things. It was the most fun to read and then work. It was like making imagination come true. I understand you prefer using traditional hand tools instead of many of the modern day power tools. Why? I think the old hand tools are better for the planet. They are powered by the food that I eat. Since plants grow in the sun, it makes my work solar powered. Do you have a favorite toy or wooden item that you like to make? What is it and why is it your favorite? I like making new things all the time, but when I teach, I get to see other people make things for the first time, and then it is just as new and exciting for me. So, my favorites are always the next, new thing. What does it take to become a woodworker? It takes practice! Good tools help, good teachers help, but the way to be a woodworker is to work wood. Start making things and keep going! What is a typical day like in your workshop? Every day is different, but the end of theday must always be cleaning up. The shavings of wood left at the end of the day can catch fire very easily and can be very dangerous and destructive. Always clean up and get ready for the next day. What are some challenges many woodworkers face? Getting good wood is always the biggest challenge. With good wood that lends itself to the thing that you want to make, you can make anything. If the wood is not well suited to your needs (too many knots, not strong enough), then it is very hard. What do you love most about woodworking? I like the way working with wood is so much fun for everyone. I think every person has great woodworkers in their family heritage, and they reconnect with that every time they make something new. Everyone enjoys it, and I like that! Do you have any interesting woodrelated facts you can share with our readers? You can take a piece of wood from the red oak tree, stick one end in water, blow on the other end and make bubbles come up! The wood is porous — so don’t build boats with red oak! What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working with wood? I like to read and watch nature. I live in an old mill that needs a lot of repair, however, so I am almost always working with wood. It’s a good thing that I enjoy it.
Richard Knocker leads safaris in Africa. His life is full of adventure! Tell our readers a little bit about yourself: I was born on a farm in Kenya. My mother always loved going on safari, so some of my earliest memories are of sitting by the car with a mountain of gear around us — tents, food, stove — before we set off on a trip. In those days, you could go to the Maasai Mara and just set up your tent wherever you wanted — we wouldn’t see another soul for days. School was fun. I always enjoyed learning, and we got to do cool stuff, like the time we went to Northern Kenya to watch a total eclipse of the sun. During the school holidays, we always went to the beach. I adore the ocean; snorkeling and diving are some of my favorite hobbies. After going to university in the United Kingdom, I got a job teaching in Istanbul, my favorite city in the whole world. Then, in 1990, I started working as a guide, and that’s what I’ve done ever since. I moved to Tanzania in 1994 with my wife Jules and three dogs. We live on the edge of Arusha National Park, where my wife makes fabulous cheeses and, occasionally, the elephants come visiting. What is a typical day like for a safari leader? Up early for a quick cup of tea, then off. We might be going for a walk or a game drive, but either way, I have to be ready to explain to my guests what is going on around us: ‘These tracks show where a hippo made its way back to water’; ‘That herd of impala are staring and alarm-calling at the lioness over there’; ‘On this twig, there’s a chameleon, perfectly caouflaged against the bark.’ What kind of training does it take to lead a safari? These days there are lots of different schools where you can learn a great deal about nature and wildlife — the kind of information your guests will love hearing about. But there’s no substitute for practical experience; your best school is the bush, nature herself. Many of my most interesting insights come from my own observations, when I’m out there with my friends and fellow guides, or when I’m guiding clients. What is your favorite animal — it doesn’t have to be a safari animal. Am I allowed two? I’m a sucker for elephants and cheetahs. Elephants are incredible animals; they always seem to be doing something cool. They are social creatures, so you often see interesting interactions: a mother feeding her calf, two young males messing around, a herd luxuriating in a mud wallow. In some ways they seem incredibly human, which makes them all the more fascinating. Cheetahs are just soooo beautiful, the way they walk, the way they lie, the way they groom themselves. A safari supermodel. What is something cool most people don’t know about animals that you see on safari? Did you know there is a bird, called a honeyguide, that makes a special kind of call to get people to follow it to a beehive? The humans can get the honeycomb out of the hive, and they leave a piece of comb for the bird. Honeyguides can digest wax because they are serophagous (which is just a posh way of saying they can digest wax!). When and why did you become interested in this line of work? Thanks to my intrepid mother, I was always interested in travel and nature. But it wasn’t until I got to go on a trip as a trainee guide in Turkey in 1989 that I realized that this was the life for me. I got to go to amazing places, meet lots of fun people and also to share my knowledge. I suppose it is important to be a bit of a show-off if you want to be guide. What is the hardest part about your job? Saying goodbye to my wife at the beginning of a long safari. What is the best part about your job? Whenever we see something amazing and one of my guests says ‘wow!’ Can you tell our readers about your most exciting safari? Hmm, tough one this! Most recently, I spent five days with the Hadzabe, a hunter/gatherer tribe here in northern Tanzania, with a group of teenagers. Every day we walked with our Hadzabe hosts for hours at a time, foraging for food. It was amazing to watch as they hammered wooden pegs into a baobab tree to climb up to get honey from a hive, despite being stung by loads of bees, or to see the women dig up tasty potato-like tubers which they recognized from a shriveled-up stalk above ground and the excitement with which returning hunters are greeted, coming back with a porcupine or hyrax in hand — food for the family. What are some interesting facts most people don’t know about Africa? Africa is splitting apart down the middle, along the geological fault known as the Great Rift Valley. It won’t happen next week, but the eastern part is slowly drifting away from the rest. One day, this will be an island. If you look at an atlas, you can see how this has happened before: the coastline of the western part of Africa fits beautifully into the eastern side of the Americas, like a giant jigsaw puzzle. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working? I love the beach — snorkelling, diving, sailing — but I can’t lie around and work on my tan. Explain to our readers what a safari is? “Safari” in Kiswahili means ‘a journey.’ Most people think of it as being a holiday where you’ll be looking at animals on game drives and possibly sleeping in a tent. To me it’s much more than that. It’s a sort of freedom, a journey to a new and different place. It’s also a journey of…
Tell me a little bit about yourself — some background information for our readers. My name is Nathalie Dajko. I’m 38 years-old and I’m mostly from Vancouver, BC.,though I’ve lived in New Orleans, Louisiana for 12 years now — longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. I’m a professor in the anthropology department at Tulane University, where I also got my doctorate. What does an anthropologist do? Anthropology is the study of people. There are different types of anthropologists. Some study humans via bones and/or via similar species (physical anthropologists), some study ancient cultures via material remains like pottery (archaeologists). Some study the cultures of living people (cultural anthropologists). I’m interested in language; I’m a linguistic anthropologist. I’m especially interested in language variation, and in how people express various aspects of their identity, such as their ethnicity, via their dialect. I work with Louisiana French and with Louisiana English. In order to study these things I go out and interview people: I ask them to read passages aloud or translate sentences from French into English, and I ask them to talk about their lives and their cultures. The interviews take an hour or more and are recorded on digital recorders or video cameras so I can listen and/or watch them again later, when I type up what people have said and analyze their speech. I write articles and produce videos based on the interviews I conduct. Language is a part of culture, so I do ethnographic work as well to help me understand the variation I find. This means I participate in both everyday and ceremonial life. As a result, I’ve spent time working as a deck hand on a shrimp boat, helped to clean up after a hurricane, attended church and temple ceremonies and spoken at funerals. I also teach classes at Tulane; I’ve taught introductory classes on linguistics and on cultural anthropology and I’ve taught advanced classes on language variation, field methods and local language documentation. When and why did you first become interested in working as an anthropologist? I’m not one of those people who knew what they wanted to do when they were 7-years-old. I mostly fell into what I do by lucky accident. I tried a few other fields before I settled on anthropology for my undergraduate major because I enjoyed those classes the most (I was a fine arts major first, until it became clear it wasn’t for me). I think my my love of the history and of travel played a role, as well, in making the decision. I came to Louisiana to do my PhD because I wanted to hear what Louisiana French sounded like, since I already spoke Parisian French (thanks to the year I spent in France when I was 16-17) and I had lived in Montreal and heard the French there, too. So I found myself in graduate school studying Louisiana French, and it was the happiest accident ever. I loved the work and I loved Louisiana as well. Best of all, I got to stay! What does it take to become an anthropologist? If you want to do the kind of thing I do, you need a PhD in anthropology or linguistics. But there are anthropologists in all kinds of other jobs as well, many of which only require a four-year degree. Pretty much all you need for any of these is an interest in human diversity. What is a typical day like for you? Every day is different. When school is in, I teach two classes per semester, so I meet with students six times a week, and I meet with the graduate students for extra sessions. Between classes I meet with students, attend meetings, grade papers, evaluate the graduate students’ work and work on writing up my own research. Sometimes I head out into the city to conduct interviews when my teaching is done for the day but more often I leave research for the summer. I also attend conferences at which I present my work a few times a year. What are some of the challenges of your job? Oddly enough, I’m actually very shy, so I have to force myself to overcome my fear of talking to strangers when I conduct interviews. I love people, but I’m also intimidated by the prospect of approaching a stranger and asking them to sit down and talk to me on tape. Likewise, when I teach, I have to overcome stage fright every day. But it’s worth the effort in the end — I meet so many interesting people and hear so many interesting stories as a result! And I get to learn, at least a little bit, what it’s like to live someone else’s life. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working? I live in New Orleans, so I love going to as many of the many festivals we have as I can, though Carnival (Mardi Gras) is still my favorite. I also have a new baby, so lately I spend a lot of time introducing him to the world — his favorite adventure so far seems to have been a ride on the street car. What is something cool that most people don’t know about your line of work? When people hear that I study language, they think I’m here to make sure they’re talking right. In reality, all dialects are interesting and complex and equally good. I’m interested in the way people really speak, not the standard they’re “supposed” to speak. Also I only speak two languages, not 15. You can be a terrible language learner and still study language.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Jim Bacon, Superintendent of National Park of American Samoa to learn a little about his job. Truman: Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your background, etc. JB: I am from a small town just outside of Buffalo, N.Y. When I was young, I spent my summers living in a cottage on a lake in Canada. I believe my time there helped shape me and ultimately led me to a career in the park service. I went to graduate school at the University of Vermont and studied natural resources planning and outdoor recreation in national parks. After that, I went to the Peace Corps and worked in Guatemala, Central America. I spent two years there working with indigenous groups. I got my first park service job at Yosemite National Park where I worked on visitor management issues. I worked there for 10 years. For the past two years, I have been working in American Samoa. We decided to come here because we were looking to have an adventure in another culture as a family. I wanted to work in a different national park and wanted to try one near the ocean instead of in the mountains, like Yosemite was. This is my first superintendent position. Truman: What are your responsibilities as the Superintendent of the National Park of Samoa? JB: We are a small park, so I am responsible for all aspects of running the day-to-day operations of the park. I enjoy it because it allows me to get my feet wet and my hands dirty. We deal with natural and cultural resources while preserving the local Samoan culture. We also offer interpretation and education programs to visitors and local school groups. We have about 23,000 visitors a year, but that is increasing because we now have a number of cruise ships that come through each year, and many of the passengers make their way to the park. Truman: What is a typical day at work like for you? JB: I arrive early and oversee the field crews going out for the day. I help them organize their work and make sure that they are prepared and ready for a safe and productive day. Throughout the day, I am back in the office doing administrative functions or having meetings. At the end of the day, I check in with the crews to see how work went and how their projects are going. We are a day-use park, so there is not a lot that happens here at night. Truman: What does it take to manage a national park? JB: It takes an eagerness to learn and understand resources and issues pertaining to them and to get into the details and figure out how to solve problems. It takes patience to see the results of your work. It takes time to work through things — and you have to invest in relationships. For instance, often invasive species are a problem. A lot of people may not recognize an invasive species. A tree may look like part of the forest when it is actually a danger to the health of the local trees. Here, we are working diligently to remove these invasive trees so that the native plants and trees can thrive. As another example, we have Crown-of-Thorns starfish here. They feed on corals in the ocean, which is detrimental to the corals. It kills them. Until you get in the water and look around, you may never know that these starfish exist or are causing harm to the coral. Truman: When and how did you know you wanted to work at a national park? JB: Right out of college, I worked at a summer camp in Colorado. During that time, I visited Rocky Mountain National Park and really enjoyed it and thought to myself, Wow! I could do this for a living. Truman: What is your favorite part of your job? JB: I love seeing people get excited about the park, its resources and their work. We have a youth conservation corps program with 14 local Samoan kids spending the summer doing trail work in the park. The other day, a young girl came back from a hard day’s work all dirty and muddy. She was so excited. I understood why when and she said, “We finally made it to the top!” They have been working really hard to get to the top of the mountain. Truman: What is the most challenging part of your job? JB: The weather. It rains a lot here, and you have to adjust plans. We are at a convergence of weather systems, so we get a lot of rain here in the Samoan Islands. Truman: What is something cool that most people don’t know about the National Park of American Samoa? JB: That nearly 1/3 of the park is marine based. We have 9,500 acres on land and 4,000 acres are marine environment. Some of the most pristine waters here are in the park. You can bring your own snorkel and scuba equipment and enjoy the park. The islands are surrounded with coral reefs, and it is easy to see all kinds of marine life under water. Truman: Tell our readers something unique about American Samoa. JB: The Samoan culture is very vibrant and alive. The first language here is Samoan. The traditional customs are still followed. For example, I wear a National Park uniform to work here, but it is slightly different than your typical Park Ranger. Mine includes a Lava lava — it is a traditional wrap that men wear. The women’s traditional dress is called a Puletasi. These are truly unique; you will only see park rangers dressed like this in American Samoa. Truman: What do people need to know/understand about our national parks and natural resources? JB: At the two parks I have worked in, the natural resources are beautiful and dynamic and diverse. From the high Sierra Mountains of Yosemite to…
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