Women in Science

Mar 03, 2017
March is Women's History Month and we are celebrating all month long by highlighting local women scientists in Central Oregon.

Cari Press at work at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
Cari Press at work at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.

Happy Women’s History Month!  In honor of all the great women out there, past and present, we’re profiling three local women with a commitment to science.

This week, we are featuring Deschutes National Forest Hydrologist, Cari Press.

1. How did you get interested in working in science?
I was always passionate about environmental issues and wanted a job that allowed me to make an impact while also working outside in nature. My first job in the environmental field was implementing natural resources projects such as trail maintenance, riparian planting, and livestock fence building as an AmeriCorps member. This introduced me to a local soil and water conservation district where I got my next job. Working with landowners to improve watershed conditions got me interested in stream restoration. That’s when I decided to attend graduate school and pursue a degree in hydrology.

2. What is your educational background?
I have a BA in Earth Science and Russian from Trinity University and a MS in Watershed Science from Colorado State University. My thesis was studying the effectiveness of stream restoration projects on the Umatilla National Forest.

3. What are your favorite parts of your current job?
I enjoy reviewing and providing professional input to stream restoration projects around the region as a member of the Regional Restoration Assistance Team.

4. What is a recent project you worked on that you especially enjoyed?
Our design team just completed the first phase of six for a stream and floodplain restoration project on Deschutes Land Trust’s Whychus Canyon Preserve. I feel fortunate to work in areas which allow us to restore natural processes versus simply enhancing habitat or addressing the symptoms of the problem. Our methods are innovative and new to many people, which present many challenges, but also allows us to move the science of stream restoration further along. It is rewarding to be working in this field at such an exciting time.

5. Do you find it challenging to work in the field as a woman?
I didn’t until I had kids. I had gotten used to being the only woman or one of a few women in a room. Now that I have kids, I find it difficult to manage all the responsibilities and guilt associated with being a mom, especially since my busiest season is when the kids aren’t in school.

6. What advice do you have for other women interested in a science field?
Get involved in research projects. Also, look into the Federal Pathways program. This program recruits students (both undergraduate and graduate) in Natural Resources fields for jobs in the federal government. It is often very difficult to get into a permanent position with the federal government (US Forest Service, USGS, BLM, etc) and this is a way in.

7. Anything else?
Be observant. Most of the science used in stream restoration is simply observing the natural world and trying to recreate it. Also, I love this interpretation of Darwin’s ideas and it’s especially applicable to stream restoration and the need to restore resiliency: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

If you’d like to learn more about principles guiding Cari and her team’s designs:

Cluer, B. and Thorne, C.R. 2014 A stream evolution model integrating habitat and ecosystem benefits. River Research and Applications 30: 135-154.

Pollock MM, Heim M, Werner D. 2003. Hydrologic and geomorphic effects of beaver dams and their influence on fishes. AFS Symposium 37: 213-233.

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