I’m from a small town in southeastern Wisconsin and the daughter of Scottish immigrants who moved to the US a few years before I was born.
I went to the University of Wisconsin for my undergrad (Go Badgers!), where I pursued my passion for environmental science through the Biological Systems Engineering and Environmental Studies programs. In my senior year, I worked with a team to design a wetland restoration at a site near my hometown as part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Wetlands Reserve Program.
When I graduated I took an opportunity to work as an engineer for an oil company (the last industry I had expected to end up in) in Dallas. I learned quickly, calculating company-wide greenhouse gas emissions for EPA reporting within my first few weeks on the job and helping lead hazard and operability studies at a refinery shortly thereafter. One of the projects I’m most proud of is developing an assessment looking at the financial and environmental benefits of implementing a water recycling program in one of the company’s field locations. The model I helped create showed that this practice could prevent the pollution of up to 3 million gallons of water for each well drilled without a measurable cost impact. There were certainly challenges working out in the oilfields, but I met wonderful people and grew immensely both professionally and personally.
I left engineering to pursue a graduate degree, focusing on public health which I saw as an area largely overlooked in the environmental and safety fields. I interned with the California EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and was able to carry out a large-scale research project examining how climate conditions (including temperature and humidity) impact mental health-related hospitalizations. I was delighted to contribute to the growing field of research on the tangible and personal health impacts of climate change.
After attending a presentation by the Center for Advanced Hindsight explaining how different principals of behavioral science can be harnessed to influence people’s behavior with regard to their transportation choices, waste practices, and energy and water use, I decided to work to understand more about the behavioral science field and its applications to sustainability. Six months after attending that presentation, I accepted a position with the Center for Advanced Hindsight, where for three years, I helped run large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to determine what strategies are most effective in motivating people to make sustainable choices. Today, I use the skills built through that applied research to bring innovation and experimentation to the City of Durham, North Carolina, where I serve as manager of the Innovation Team.
In my free time I love to write, read, hike, run, practice yoga, cautiously mountain bike, snuggle with my dog, and explore all of the wonderful breweries in North Carolina.