Just as Jessica Jackman was starting her first semester at Colorado State University, the Gold King Mine breached outside of Silverton, Colo. For Jackman, who grew up in Telluride and had seen environmental justice issues related to the mining industry, that particular event gave her a new urgency and let her know she had chosen the right educational path.
She needed to learn as much as she could about environmental degradation issues and solutions. Studying Ecosystems Science and Sustainability at Warner College of Natural Resources helped her align an educational path with her personal passions and values. Jackman is set to graduate on May 18 as a University Honors Scholar with a Bachelor of Science. She’ll be the first in her family to do it.
She credits her parents for sparking her interest in natural resources by showing her the wonders of the natural landscape. Family vacations usually meant camping and exploring the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Moab, the Sand Dunes, and many other preserved natural areas.
“I am a first-generation college student. This accomplishment is not only monumental in my own life, but a huge celebration for my entire family,” said Jackman. “I feel very lucky to have received such a strong formal education, and I want to pass on what I have learned to the planet and people around me.”
Making a tangible impact
Jackman has spent the past four years learning and developing her education so she can make a tangible impact on the health of our planet and its ecosystems. She’s had a busy four years.
She was the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Club’s president. She conducted research on the validity of current weather stations’ ability to estimate sublimation. She was a barista. She created an independent research project for Wildlands Restoration Volunteersthat tracked spatial movement of nitrogen after an application of soil amendment. She was a National Institute of Food and Agriculture Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates program research assistant, during which time she completed a research project investigating the effect of compost amendment on nitrogen cycling. She shared her passion and science skills as a mentor for high school students. She presented her research, Impact of Compost on Nitrogen Availability in a grazed perennial grassland, at the Soil Science Society of America conference. She did all this, and much more, while managing an honors student course load.
“I would tell young women interested in natural resources to be confident in their abilities and to know that success is something you can build for yourself,” said Jackman. “Do not be afraid to pursue and ask for opportunities when you find an organization or a topic of interest. Apply for things, ask if you can volunteer, show you care, and get your foot in the door.”
After graduation, Jackman will be working as a project coordinator for Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. The non-profit organization specializes in riparian restoration projects, trail building, seed collections, and community engagement programs throughout Colorado’s front range.
“Their mission includes healing the land and building community, both things I personally value,” said Jackman. “I will be able to learn how to balance a multitude of stakeholders while incorporating ecology and natural resource management.”
Jackman hopes to incorporate travel into the next few years after graduation to build a larger cultural perspective and to visit more beautiful landscapes throughout the world.
“I am proud of the hard work and motivation I had to maintain for the past four years in order to ensure my success in college and for overcoming the multitude of adversities I have had to face during my college career,” said Jackman.“It would be selfish not to take what I have learned to make improvements in my community.”