Article Author: Megan Geer, serving at Ijams Nature Center (2018-2019)
What made you decide to join AmeriCorps? Was it what you thought it would be?
When I decided to join AmeriCorps it was very much an opportunity to boost my resume with actual work experience in a field that I had no experience in. It turned out to be much more than just some entry level opportunity. I wish I had joined with the sole intention of giving back to the community that has given me so much but that wasn’t the case when I started. However, after joining I quickly realized that AmeriCorps was going to be a year filled with meeting wonderful people and making a big difference in a wonderful community. My time serving has shown me ways to connect with people that is fulfilling to both pairings and proactive in the same way. I’ve lived in Knoxville going on 6 years and I know I am just now beginning to see what this city has to offer!
Tell me a little bit about your current position at Ijams.
My position at Ijams is Conservation Steward. I spend my days either on a boat cleaning up the Tennessee River from debris and trash, or at the Nature Center removing exotic plant species and trying to make the terrain a more natural and native space that the Knoxville community has access to and can enjoy.
Could you tell me about being a student athlete and how some of those skills/experiences transferred to your current position?
Being thrust out into the world after being a student athlete was jarring. I had little direction and little idea of who I was or who I wanted to be outside of my sport. College and professional athletics gave me many helpful skills like confidence, communication and leadership. I would not be the hardworking individual that I am today without my time as an athlete. But, I also felt really behind in my self-discovery. I always happily followed the path that was put in front of me. When the path of sports was at an end, it was the first time in my life I had to create my own path and I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily I stumbled across AmeriCorps and it gave me the perfect transition into the broad environmental field that I badly wanted to be a part of. I was able to learn in the field while building a network that later helped set me up with a job at the end of my term.
Tell me about the grant that you received and are now implementing?
I wrote and received the TN 5k Healthy Watershed Grant to be implemented at Ijams during my term. Its purpose is to help mitigate erosion while lowering the pH of the water filtering into the cave system below an old quarry dumping site. It involves building hillside catch basins that stabilize the large eroded hill on the side of the site, and retention basins that will create wetlands where the water is pooling. The wetland will act as an acidic filter to lower the high pH and make a more hospitable environment for the Cave Salamander. (There is a vast network of caves under this site!)
What are your next steps, and how has your service in AmeriCorps led you to and prepared you for them?
My next step is to start my job at Advanced Resources International Inc. at the end of my term as a Research Associate. They are a consulting firm that focuses on unconventional gases. AmeriCorps gave me the applicable experience and the right connections to people who helped me in my job search, and prepped me for interviewing and resume building so that I would feel prepared entering into the job force.
This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.