15 August 2020

Better than Master of One

Written by: Natalie Burgos

Jack of all trades,

Master of none…


Graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, I believed that I would be plunged into a world of beakers, lab experiments, data, and the coveted day out in the field. I have several hobbies in my life, but I was quite sure that when it came to my career, it would be focused in the science of ecology.

But I was wrong.

And luckily so.

When I first began working, I started doing hands-on restoration of prairies, woodlands and wetlands in Illinois and Indiana. I sprayed, pulled, and cut invasive species. Planting natives and caring for trails came afterwards when I maintained two dry reservoirs as a park ranger intern. My work turned into watching over others: animals at an aquarium, and high schoolers with the Friends of the Forest Preserves Youth Program as their crew leader. In each of these roles, I was able to learn and develop skills that I hadn’t thought of before and in some cases, didn’t realize how much I needed them.

But the place that has helped me branch out even further has been RTCA.

Thanks, of course, to HAF.

During this fellowship I have grown new skills in areas that I hadn’t explored before and have even drawn on some of my hobbies to add to my work. Being an Urban Ecology Fellow, I’m the oddball among landscape architects and urban planner; an absolutely a fantastic position to be in because of all the different perspectives I’m now learning about.

Because of another fellow’s teaching and patience (Thank you, Maria!), I’ve dabbled in making diagrams with AutoCAD. Now, I’m creating diagrams to explain how to create a gradient of ecosystems (an ecotone) across the channel that cuts through the Canal Shores Golf Course.

Thanks to my supervisor, Mike Mencarini, I’ve learned how to help guide and lead meetings with partners, how to consider everyone’s input and maintain the group on a path that helps them achieve their goals. He’s also not only encouraged but, alongside another of RTCA member, Laura Underhill, found more opportunities for me to flex my artistic and research muscles. This has led to me creating renderings of what project sites could look like in the future. I’ve also been able to create visuals that not only provide scientific information that I researched but also help tell the story of why that data matters and how it can be used to improve projects further.

With a few more projects coming up, I’m now broadening my horizons even further, getting ready to help with creating ArcGIS Story Maps and build a portfolio with ideas of what to include within a Bio-Reserve. Having this diversity of projects reminds me of my supervisor with the Army Corps of Engineers, Todd Ernenputsch, used to always say. The full version of an old saying that I know rings true…

Jack of all trades,

Master of none…

But better than master of one.

Agency: National Park Service

Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)

Location: Rivers, Trails Conservation Assistance Program - Illinois Field Office

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