Jennifer Owen-White believes that when we encourage girls to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, we often leave out one very meaningful branch — conservation science. During a talk at TEDxABQWomen, Owen-White says when a young woman shows proficiency and interest in STEM, too many people are quick to push her in the direction of “socially-acceptable” STEM fields, mostly focusing on medicine. But conservation science is nothing to sneeze at.”Conversation is essential to our daily lives and everything we depend on,” Owen-White says.
As a professional conservation scientist, Owen-White’s job as the manager of the new Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge allows her to do everything from restoring and engineering wetlands to sussing out the specifics of frog populations to engaging with the public, all while using critical thinking skills, new technology, and STEM literacy.
“Conservation is a field that’s strong in STEM, a field that’s less than 20 percent female and allows [its practitioners] to do good for our environment, our families and our communities,” Owen-White says. “So how do we get our young women into conservation?”
For her part, she’s working to make sure her place of work is a safe and encouraging space for women pursuing STEM careers. At Valle de Oro, Owen-White acts as a mentor to the other women working at the refuge.
“Together, we are seven women, 35 years old and younger, who are starting a brand new national wildlife refuge,” she says, “restoring 570 acres of habitat in the South Valley [of the Rio Grande] and changing the game for engaging urban audiences and making a name for our refuge on a national scale.”
This teamwork matters, she says, and so does your support. “Help the girls, young women, and even young men in your life to follow their passions. If you see a young girl playing in the dirt, catching bugs, don’t yell at her about getting her dress dirty, share in her discovery; support her curiosity; ask her about what she’s learning … Tell her about a future and a career in conservation.”
To learn more, watch Owen-White’s whole talk below: