My name is Gina Veronica Collignon and I was born and
bred in San Francisco, California. My interests in biology have taken
the following path: didn’t know a thing to redwood trees to plants
to forests to ecology to disturbance ecology to plants and ecology and
forests and trees and humans’ impacts on all of the above. Though
concrete and traffic dominate my hometown, it is possible to squint
one’s eyes, tilt one’s head side ways, and imagine what
once was. I never made it out of the city as a kid, but I did watch
Wild America programs on PBS.
I began volunteering as a cabin leader at Caritas Creek
my sophomore year of high school. Caritas Creek is an outdoor education
program located about an hour and a half north of San Francisco. I met
my first redwood tree at Caritas. Have you ever met anyone obsessed
with a certain species of tree? All of my friends have. At the end of
my sophomore year of high school my biology teacher told me to seriously
consider becoming a biology major once I entered college. “Yeah
right,” I remember answering him. “I’m never going
to be a bio major.”
I received my B.A. in biology from Reed College in May
2004. Past projects have included looking at the roles of adaptive plasticity
versus inate character traits in invasive plants, the effects of land
use history on fern distribution in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto
Rico, the effects of logging on microbial diversity in the Pacific Northwest,
potential allelopathy of western red cedars, and negative response learning
in trout. This summer I worked with Autumn Thoyre and Eric Berlow on
a project investigating the effects of pack stock on alpine meadows.
I spent the summer backpacking in the Sierra Nevadas and hanging out
in exciting Bishop, CA. I had a blast and I got paid to do it.
I am not a Deep Ecologist and I feel that humans are as
much a part of nature as that beaver chewing down that tree over there.
But under my Carhartt hat and dirty field cloths I am still a city kid
who understands the power of the concrete mixer. We have an amazing
ability to both increase and lower our quality of life through the exploitation
of our natural environment. I want to make sure that we monitor what
we do so that I can drink clean water when I am older. I plan on eventually
receiving my PhD in an Ecology program but am taking this year off to
repay my debt to Caritas and work as a teacher/naturalist. I get to
introduce city kids to dirt.
Oh, and this summer I won geek of the week here at nerd
camp. The contest actually began because of me. I almost won geek of
the summer, but I think my partner, Autumn, won that one. Buffalo.