Alumni Profile: Where in the nation is Meghan Barker?



            
Every summer, students travel from around the country to attend the National Environmental Summit. In 2012, Meghan Barker was the student who traveled the farthest to attend the Summit, coming all the way from her home state of Colorado. Of the traveling, Meghan says, “It was my first time in NC, so the Summit was . . . a great travel opportunity for me to engage with people who did not grow up in the same region and regional culture as me.” While on the East Coast, Meghan enjoyed discovering what North Carolina’s natural world had to offer and how it differed from her home state of Colorado. She loved spending time outside exploring the Fred Stanback, Jr. Ecological Preserve, and she liked being able to connect with other students during social times in the evening, forming relationships that she still maintains today!
Meghan wanted to be a field biologist at the time of the Summit, so she chose to participate in the invasive species focus group. Dr. Jay Bolin, a professor in the Biology Department at Catawba College, annually leads a focus group on invasive species and their impacts on the biodiversity of environments. Meghan loved the personal connections she was able to forge with professors and the hands-on experience her focus group provided her: “I loved working with Dr. Jay doing invasive species work, he was fascinating, and made me super excited to go to college and engage with researchers who were so passionate about the environment and science.”
She enjoyed her track, but she says “some of the other activities we did helped me to see that there are other options for working for the environment. I think the Summit. . . was a key point in me deciding that I wanted to do something in policy or natural resources management.” One particular activity that stood out to Meghan involved students role-playing as stakeholders trying to solve an environmental issue. “I remember doing the activity and thinking ‘I want my job to be the facilitator of these kinds of meetings because they matter and are how problems get solved.’ Now that I have some real-life experience, I realize it’s not that simple, but it was definitely a pivotal point for me in determining where I saw myself career-wise.”
            After attending the Summit and graduating high school, Meghan went on to graduate from Luther College in Iowa with dual degrees in Environmental Policy and Political Science. Sustainability played a major role in her college experience; she worked for the Center for Sustainable Communities at Luther in communications and marketing, and the existence of this center played a large role in Meghan’s decision to attend the school. The Center for Sustainable Communities organizes sustainability initiatives at Luther College and has been a trailblazer in sustainability practices, earning national notoriety for its use of renewable energy and green campus practices.
During her time at Luther, Meghan was involved with the school’s Environmental Concerns Organization, served as a sustainability representative in the Student Senate, and worked to raise funds for the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital. Meghan also had the opportunity to study away for a semester and summer in Washington, D.C., working for an environmental advocacy group. In her other college summers, Meghan worked seasonal positions at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska and Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.
Kachemak Bay State Park in Homer, Alaska. (Picture by Meghan Barker)


After college, Meghan knew she wanted to move to Alaska after falling in love with the state during her internship in Glacier Bay. She took a job working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Homer, Alaska, in October 2017. About her job, Meghan says, “I am a Student Conservation Intern for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. I work with the Visitor Services team at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Center, and am an environmental educator and naturalist. I spent the winter working with school groups and providing lesson for local classrooms, and this summer I am doing more interpretive hikes and guided walks.”
In the future, she hopes to transition more to the policy aspect of environmental science and is currently in pursuit of policy and communications jobs. When asked what she would say to students considering attending Redesigning Our Future, Meghan responded, “All the staff at the summit were wonderful and people I still keep in touch with now. The college students I got to interact with and the work we did all made me really excited for college, and set me up well to go into an Environmental Studies field.”
Kachemak Bay State Park in Homer, Alaska. It's no wonder she fell in love with this state! (Picture by Meghan Barker)




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