Cool Green Scientist: Dayna Gross

Dayna Gross, Silver Creek conservation manager

Dayna Gross, Silver Creek conservation manager

 

Interview by Darci Palmquist, senior science writer

The Conservancy’s conservation manager for the Silver Creek area in Idaho is a Jill-of-all-trades and a master of opposites, blending a love for art and science, of things big and small, of being active and sitting still. Meet Dayna.

MY JOB: I manage the Silver Creek preserve daily operations including volunteer and staff supervision, preserve upkeep and special projects, communications and public relations, plus I lead larger-scale projects such as easement acquisitions, collaborations, sustainable agriculture and land stewardship projects.

I love that every day is different and that I get to spend a lot of time outside. And, although I seem to spend less and less time with them every year, I really enjoy the interns. They are young and full of ideas and life and coming to Silver Creek is such an experience for them — it’s nice to see how it shapes them. I keep in touch with many of them and that is one of my greatest achievements — helping form the next generation of conservationists.

I could do without cleaning the outhouses, which I do mostly to ‘be part of the team.’ 

READING: Currently I have about 10 books sitting on my nightstand — all started and not finished. It’s a reading funk — happens to me every few years. So, right now, I have found that what I enjoy most is reading the Frog and Toad books to my kids. Not so much for them (although they do like them, too), but because I really enjoy the stories. They are simple and have great life, work, and conservation messages. Sometimes taking a break from grown-up books and reading kids’ books brings me back down to earth.   

JOYS: Running, hiking, painting — anything that brings me outside. When I am not active, I really just enjoy sitting and watching — my kids, bugs, the garden. Oh, and taking care of our ridiculously large vegetable garden is also a great joy of mine.

TRENDING: The connection people are making with their food. Because the interest brings them to look at where the food is produced, how we use our resources, to think about issues coming down the pipeline with more people to feed, and how we protect natural areas when there is an immediate demand for more food and maybe agricultural lands. This connection — what we eat and where it comes from and how it is produced — really brings us directly to think about conservation. It’s tangible and real, and that is really powerful.

BEST ADVICE: My high school art teacher used to tell us that no one is ever an expert. I have found that to be something I go back to over and over again because it frees me up to ask good questions without feeling intimidated and to dive into subjects I wouldn’t normally be compelled to wonder about — for some reason it makes me feel like there is a level playing field.

BUILDING BLOCKS: My kids make me feel hopeful about the future of conservation and nature. After a long week of school or daycare, they ‘re-set’ their attitudes and their brains during the weekends of spending time outside and doing nothing except collecting bugs, playing in the creek, and exploring. It rejuvenates them in a way that reinforces to me how important nature is in our lives and how much we need it.

SCIENCE MEETS ART: I have an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture and have spent many days in art studios and art classes. Someone once told me landscape architecture was the perfect nexus of art and science — and I can live in both worlds, so it made sense to me. For instance, since I was young, I have collected insects — not to learn their scientific traits so much but because I like looking very closely at things, especially the bits and pieces of bugs. I enjoy big landscapes, too, but in a more abstract way — I love wide-open spaces and the shades of different colors as the day goes by.

But when it comes down to it, I like to look and examine things very closely and I think that is where my interest in scientific illustration comes from. The combination of the two — liking to look up close, and appreciating the beauty of the big — has given me a different perspective on nature. The big things are great, but it’s the little things that really keep everything working.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.

Darci Palmquist is a senior science writer for The Nature Conservancy. Previously she served as editorial manager for nature.org, the website of The Nature Conservancy, as well as for the Conservancy's e-newsletter. She is based in Amherst, Massachusetts.




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