Growing up in a small town in Rhode Island, Jennifer developed her initial love of wildlife and the environment from visiting the local zoo and scouting wilderness camps. The significant role these informal environmental education lessons played in shaping her academic journey would later highlight the importance informal learning opportunities can play in fostering environmental awareness and pro-environmental behaviors, piquing Jennifer’s interest in this research area. She attended Boston University as an undergraduate student and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Biology, focusing specifically on anthropology and animal behavior. After finishing her degree, Jennifer began working with Dr. Cheryl Knott, first as a research assistant collecting orangutan behavioral data and later by managing her Gunung Palung Orangutan Research Project. After two years working in Indonesia, Jennifer began her Master’s in Conservation Project Management at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, with the plan to return to Indonesia and use the knowledge she had learned to assist NGOs with the dire conservation situation in the region.
In 2016, she began working with Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF), based in Central Indonesian Borneo, as the Orangutan Scientist. Jennifer shifted her focus in 2017 from primatology toward developing and implementing BNF’s Edu-tourism and Eco-tourism Programs at the organization’s peat swamp research sites. These opportunities encompass forest-based high school trips, volunteer programs, university field courses and building local eco-tourism partnerships. Jennifer’s commitment to learn more about how informal education effectively promotes learning and behavioral change emerged as she witnessed dozens of Indonesian and international students observe an orangutan or hold dragonflies for the first time.
This commitment has transformed into a desire to understand and determine how successful informal learning opportunities develop participants’ understanding of conservation threats and solutions, environmental appreciation, and pro-environmental behaviors. She is also interested in how this information can be used to develop best practice informal education program design. To align with her research interests and interdisciplinary background, Jennifer is pursuing a Ph.D. within the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation (FREC) on Dr. Marc Stern’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) Research in Service to Practice Project. This project will investigate how informal science learning occurs within place-based climate change adaptation workshops across the US. In evaluating these climate change adaptation workshops, Jennifer will assess the best aspects of each workshop in presenting climate-relevant science to local stakeholders to improve their ability to make science-informed adaptation decisions and identify effective practices for catalyzing collective action.
Jennifer is eager to offer her perspective from conducting research and working across both natural and social science disciplines to the evolving conversations surrounding global change, and to expand her understanding of global issues facing other parts of the world. She hopes the IGC program will enrich her understanding of human behavior and the challenges facing environmental sustainability at a national and global level, linking these topics to the development of effective informal learning programs as a conservation solution.