REU: Gina Collignon  
My advisor

Don't you wish you knew what we were pointing at?

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.

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