And finally to close out Black History month, we’re welcoming Corina Newsome (@hood_naturalist). Originally from Philadelphia, Corina has specialized in animal training and conservation education at several zoos around the country. She recently switched gears to pursue her Master’s in Biology, and is a student in Georgia Southern University’s Hunter Lab studying the synergistic effects of climate change and predation on Seaside Sparrows. We chatted with Corina about her work, why climate change is important for conservation, and everything else!
What drew you to conservation biology??
I have always been fascinated by the natural world and interested in science, but I was not aware of any wildlife careers. Meeting a Black female zoo keeper during an internship broadened my career horizon and changed my trajectory.
I became obsessed (in the literal sense) with birds during my ornithology course in college. I knew then that I wanted to both work directly with birds and to conserve avian species in peril. I have had the privilege of doing both!
I started my professional career as a zookeeper and conservation educator. During that time, I founded several programs to encourage ethnic and socioeconomic minority high school students to consider careers in wildlife science.
Since transitioning back into school from zookeeping, I have continued to direct one of those programs remotely.
Why is what you do important?
As a graduate student my research focuses on the conservation of the Seaside Sparrow–a coastal marsh dwelling species that is imperiled by sea level rise.
Sea level rise exacerbates already existing threats, especially the threat of predation.
As they nest higher to avoid flooding from rising sea levels, they become more exposed to nest predation. I am assessing the variation in predation threat across different landscape measures, and seek to determine if the frequency of nest predation corresponds with the density and diversity of predators in their habitat.
Climate change is an issue that will affect every person, place, and creature. Some people specialize in creating innovative solutions for establishing food production, housing, and economies resistant to climate change. Others of us specialize in creating systems and management practices that preserve the diversity in the natural world; that’s the kind of research I do.
Preserving the earth’s species diversity allows for resilient, stable ecosystems (which directly benefits humans), and the opportunity for us to witness the splendor of the natural world for generations to come.
What do you do when you’re not working on your research?
I serve on the steering committee for an organization called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. It’s a group of young, Christian activists trying to promote climate change awareness and activism in the church. I love playing piano and dancing!
Describe your perfect day off:
Hiking in the Smoky Mountains, shopping for Christmas ornaments, and eating tacos…then getting to cuddle as many dogs as possible.
Please welcome Corina Newsome to RealScientists!