Early this month, we were joined by our new Blue Thumb Field Educator, Becky Zawalski. Hailing from Ohio, Becky brings an excitement and enthusiasm about field work and benthic macroinvertebrates to the team. I spoke with Becky about her background, what excites her about working with Blue Thumb and what has already surprised her about Oklahoma.
What is your educational background? Where did you go to school, what did you study?
I went to the University of Findlay in Findlay, OH for undergrad. I graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. After 2 years, I went back to school at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX and graduated in the summer of 2017 with a Master’s of Science in Population and Conservation Biology. My Master’s thesis was entitled “Macroinvertebrate Metacommunity Structure of the Guadalupe River Basin, TX”. (Can be found in the digital library archives on Texas State University’s website). It is currently undergoing revisions for publication.
What is your background related to creek bugs and field work?
My thesis dealt with macroinvert community structure encompassing an entire river basin from the headwaters to the mainstem. I sampled using a Hess sampler and took several water samples to look at nutrients in addition to measuring water quality. However, I also have done field work with salamanders, toads and frogs (including headstarts and call surveys), and wildlife camera traps.
How did you find out about the job with Blue Thumb? What made you decide or want to apply?
I was looking for a position in my field and had an alert so that any time a job concerning macroinvertebrates came up, I would get a ping to alert me. I found the job on Indeed when such an alert happened and decided to apply because I enjoy field work and educating people about what I do and why it is important.
What excited you the most about the job with Blue Thumb?
I’m most excited about field work and being able to play in the creeks. I also am looking forward to bug picking and being able to share my knowledge with other people.
What do you think might be the biggest challenge about your new job with Blue Thumb?
The biggest challenge will probably be the driving and the heat. Even after living in Texas for 2.5 years, the heat was something I never got used to. But at least I’ll be able to cool off in the creeks!
What has been the biggest surprise about Oklahoma since arriving here?
The greenery. I was expecting it to be similar to Texas; full of cacti and giant mounds of rock and instead, I get a diverse landscape with greenery and lush grass (at least to the places that I have been so far).
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to watch movies and TV shows and read occasionally. I also dabble in writing short stories. Going on walks with my dog Poe is always something I enjoy, especially when the weather is nice.
How does this job with Blue Thumb fit into your overall career plans and goals?
I’m looking to expand my knowledge (not just with bugs, but fish as well), and gain some good relationships with a lot of different and diverse people. I love doing research so I’m very happy that I can continue to contribute to science in a fun and exciting way.