In the global effort to protect natural land, Olivia Barksdale ’19 oversees thousands of acres of conservation land across Massachusetts. GOLD Council members Drashhti Bilimoria ’21, MBA ’22, and Olivia sat down to explore Olivia’s Clark experience, what led her to a career in environmental science, and more:
Tell me about your experience at Clark.
I graduated from Clark in the spring of 2019. I studied Environmental Science with a minor in Geography, specializing in GIS. During my four years, I played three years on the softball team and four years on the field hockey team. I also studied abroad in Berlin, Germany, to learn about sustainability.
Where are you now? What have you been up to?
I decided to stay in Massachusetts for a job opportunity out of college. I work for Mass Audubon as the Conservation Restriction Stewardship Manager, overseeing thousands of acres of conservation land across Massachusetts.
Did Clark influence your decision to stay in the Massachusetts area?
Yes, a Clark alumna contacted me about the open position at Mass Audubon. Now, I work with a couple of Clark alumni and I get to hang out with my Clark friends who also moved to Boston.
Environmental science is our relationship with the earth. It impacts everything from the food we eat to the air we breathe and the communities we live in.
Why pursue a career in environmental science?
I knew I didn’t want to sit behind a desk 24/7 in my career, so I pursued a degree where I could work outside and with my hands. Environmental science is our relationship with the earth. It impacts everything from the food we eat to the air we breathe and the communities we live in. A career in environmental science means I can pursue my passion with like-minded people to find science-based solutions for societal problems. There is no small role in a career in environmental science; field scientists produce findings that dictate policy, and activists fight for everyone’s ability for a healthy home and protection for animals.
Do you have any career advice for recent Clark graduates?
Take a crazy seasonal job. Committing to a temporary job is the best way to find out if you like something, especially in the environmental science field. There are plenty of 6 to 12-month term jobs where you can try something new and learn a new skill with low pressure. And if anything, you have a great story and a great resume builder.
What was your favorite class at Clark and why?
One of my favorite classes at Clark was Professor Karen Frey’s Arctic in the Anthropocene. Professor Frey is so energetic and passionate about the Arctic. It was interesting learning about how the various conditions impact the Arctic and how the Arctic impacts the earth. This was one of my favorite classes because we worked with BIG data for the final project. This was my first time working with historical data with thousands of points. It was fascinating to see how the earth’s temperatures fluctuate under various conditions.
What was your favorite thing to do in Worcester?
My favorite thing to do in Worcester was attend Start on the Street in September. I loved walking up and down Park Ave., looking at the fantastic vendors with their homemade crafts and finding unique pieces of jewelry, like a spoon made into a bracelet, or a painting of your favorite restaurant in the city.
What about hobbies?
I love staying active, I have started so many hobbies. For my mind, I joined a book club and like to go on motorcycle rides. For my body, I rock climb and snowboard. For my soul, I travel, do bead work, and keep lots of house plants.
Do you have any ‘adulting’ tips or advice you can share with your fellow Clarkies?
In college, you are in a closed bubble with people who are like-minded, similar in age, and have identical time availability. Once you start working, responsibilities grow, and you develop a routine. It can seem daunting to meet new people. I found that by investing in myself and my hobbies and putting myself out there, I could make connections and new friends. I would reach out to familiar faces and get coffee to know them. Since college, I say “yes” to more social events.
How do you stay involved with the Clark community?
I work with Clark alumni and I see friends from my time at Clark. I recently became a member of Clark’s GOLD Council, where I help organize networking events.
Olivia will be leading the next GOLD Day of Service on Sunday, June 11, at Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary in Worcester, MA. Save the date to join her and other Clark alumni in supporting Worcester plant and wildlife. Registration coming soon.