Meet Our Team: Kelsey Mitchell, Biologist
Q - What drew you into working with TCWP as a Biologist?
A - Two main things that were attractive to me when I was applying for the Biologist role with TCWP were 1) the opportunity to conduct BOTH high quality fieldwork and lab work – what a dream! And 2) the team here at TCWP and their reputation in the local conservation community. I’d heard really wonderful things about the organization and the team – their positivity, their effectiveness, their collaborative nature and how much they value their team members. So far, so true!!
Q - What do you hope to achieve at TCWP?
A - I hope to help expand TCWP’s laboratory capabilities. Mikenna, TCWP’s Entomologist, has built a fantastic lab and I’m excited to work with her to continue expanding the programs and experiments we can perform. Specifically, I’ll be working to see if we’re able to expand our program to include testing for tick-borne pathogens in addition to the mosquito-borne pathogens we already test for. We’d also like to more deeply explore how our lab might partner with other local organizations to provide efficient and useful lab-based services close to home.
Q - What are you most passionate about in your field?
A - I’m passionate about applying high quality science to solve real world problems that impact people and our ecosystem. I’m new to the field of Integrated Pest Management but it’s already quite obvious to me that this industry values utilizing robust science to craft realistic, data-driven solutions to problems. As someone who’s always loved and genuinely believed in the power of science to make positive change, it’s exciting to be joining this field!
Q - What about Teton County’s ecosystem do you find is the most challenging in your perspective?
A - Is it bad that the first thing that came to my mind was “housing?!” I suppose that doesn’t really focus on the “eco” part of the ecosystem though. I think that one of the most challenging aspects of Teton County’s ecosystem in terms of conservation and managing weeds and pests is that the county is, of course, a component of a larger system – the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem – encompassing about 22million acres. This unit stretches over 3 states, numerous counties and towns, and includes different entities of public lands as well as private lands. To make ecosystem-wide or county-wide progress in controlling pest species – which don’t typically confine themselves to boundaries humans have made on a map! - you’ve got to be effective across many jurisdictions. This requires strong and intentional collaboration and creative strategizing to accomplish conservation goals.
Q - Where did you go to school and do you think it’s prepared you for this role?
A - I got my Master of Science in Applied Biology at Salisbury University – a mid-size state school in Maryland. I LOVED my experience there because I was able to work with amazing advisors (shout out to Ryan Taylor & Kim Hunter!) who connected me with opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have known existed or were options for me. For example, while completing parts of my thesis research I was able to work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama where I met and collaborated with scientists from around the world. Another aspect of my Master’s that I didn’t fully recognize as unique or value until later was that I was able to independently design and develop my own research project from beginning to end. A lot of graduate students don’t get to experience that level of independence or choice until they pursue a doctorate. That experience definitely helped me hone my scientific skillset and has contributed to my success in various roles.