As a chainsaw-wielding AmeriCorps member in the woods of southeastern North Carolina last summer, Alyssa Chen gained memorable and transformative experience in boots-on-the-ground conservation. Those seven weeks of embracing the buggy humidity that came with the empowering work culture solidified her interest in a career in the field.
Alyssa is currently a first-year Geography major at UNC Chapel Hill. This summer she will serve at the NC Botanical Garden as a conservation intern. Following her AmeriCorps term, Alyssa served as an Assistant Crew Leader for the North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps’ Weekend Trail Crews. She was able to introduce high schoolers to both the thrill of peeling invasive vines off trees and the responsibility of developing an ecological consciousness. The reasons behind conservation projects are just as important to Alyssa as the work itself. During her senior year of high school, she conducted research under Dr. Nils Peterson at NC State University, whose interests concern the human dimensions of wildlife. She studied perceptions of species belonging among Swedish hunters, focusing on public attitudes about whether species belong in a certain area. Through that experience, Alyssa was introduced to the geopolitics of nativeness and the impact of cultural factors in conservation efforts. Her awakening to the interdisciplinary complexity of environmental issues led her to pursue Geography in college. Alyssa hopes to develop a working understanding of people and place in relation to contemporary conservation issues.