Meet Jenn Rose, Entomologist, Environmentalist, talented field hockey player and world traveller. What is an Entomologist you may ask? This is a scientist whose field of study is insects. We interviewed this inspiring woman, who not only has a great passion for the environment and its inhabitants since childhood, but also has made it a part of her life. Read on to hear how her journey started, the work she does and why it is so important for the protection of our environment. We certainly learned a lot from her!
Jenn grew up in Gilroy, California, also known as "The Garlic Capital of the World!" This agricultural pocket south of the Bay Area served as Jenn's childhood playground. She spent a large portion of her upbringing outside hiking, biking and boating on the lake. Jenn and her sister played many sports including basketball and soccer, although Jenn's favorite sport is hockey which she went on to accept a scholarship to play Division 1 at University of California, in Berkeley.
Jenn has always been curious about our ecosystem and environment. Down the street from her childhood home was a park where Jenn and her sister would spend time together as kids collecting fish and tadpoles in the creek. Filled with curiosity and fascination they would lift every log and rock to find what creatures hid underneath. With all the variety and diversity insects boast, they would never get bored with what they would find. They grew up in a home filled with an array of pets including an iguana, an African bullfrog, a few turtles and even a 10ft red-tailed python!
Jenn later went on to study in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, concentrating in Insect Ecology. Despite it being one of her most challenging classes in college, this only fueled her fascination and motivation to pursue her passion further.
After completing her studies, Jenn took on the role as a research assistant for Professor Dr. Gordon Frankie for the Urban Bee Lab at UC Berkeley. Her main focus was to document bee diversity and bee frequencies on native California plants. She worked on 8 farms in Brentwood, California collaborating with farmers installing native plants to attract beneficial bees. Throughout the season, Jenn and the team would conduct bee surveys to see the variety that they were attracting.
Jenn explains to us why this work is so important. “California’s economy is heavily based on agriculture. For example, California produces almost 100% of the United State’s almonds and 80% worldwide. Farmers are experiencing the impact of Bee Colony Collapse Disorder, which is still poorly understood although pesticides and parasitic mites are contributing factors. Recent research has shown that native bees are crucial to long-term agricultural resilience, so some major components of the lab was to research new insights on the role of native bees and engage farmers about their conservation. Not many people are aware that just in California alone there are an estimated 1600 native species of bees!”
Jenn teaches us about the important role that insects play for the environment. "Insects are some of the oldest creatures we have on Earth and as a result one of the most diverse groups. It is estimated that there are 10 quintillion insects on the planet. They carry a variety of different ecological roles including pollination, organic matter decomposition and population control. Birds, fish and reptiles rely on insects as a valuable food source as well."
"Unfortunately though, populations have been rapidly dropping and researchers are still trying to understand the causes. Human alterations on land, including monoculture, plowing up grasslands and mowing down forests are contributing factors as well as the use of pesticides. Global warming is also creating a challenge for insects to adapt to big fluctuations of weather."
Jenn explains that our dependence on insects for our survival is undeniable. "Each species has an important ecological role, especially our pollinator friends, and once we lose these species we cannot bring them back. Conservation is important to protect the ecological values healthy ecosystems provide especially for our future generations. One challenge we are facing is public education and changing people’s perception towards insects, which has also motivated me to pursue this field."
Last year Jenn moved to Denmark with her partner and her dog. In the fall of this year Jenn will begin a Master’s in Nature Management. She is interested in how we can continue improving insect biodiversity in growing populations, especially with our urban pollinators.
She hopes after her Master’s Degree to either continue her education or work in some aspect of insect ecology. Oh, and secretly she looks forward to the day she can create her own urban backyard farm!
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