URI alumnus arranges close encounters with wildlife
Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892
Medford resident connects volunteers with field biologists through Earthwatch Institute
KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 18, 2004 -- If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with a rhino, whale, cheetah or other wild creature, call Medford, Mass. resident Regen Jamieson. She can arrange for you to spend two weeks helping biologists study carnivores in Argentinia, birds in the Baltic archipelago, butterflies in Vietnam, or crocodiles in Cuba, among many others.
Jamieson works for Earthwatch Institute
, which engages people worldwide in hands-on scientific field research. A 1997 graduate of the University of Rhode Island who grew up in Walpole, Mass., Jamieson worked for three years serving as a liaison between scientists and volunteers, ensuring that researchers get the assistance they need while helping volunteers enjoy a fulfilling experience.
To do that job effectively, Jamieson visited a variety of sites to make sure the projects were running smoothly. "Since I was a staff member on the project, that meant that I got the lumpiest bed and the worst seat in the car," she said laughing.
It also meant that she experienced some remarkable close encounters of her own, from hearing the "thud, thud, thud" of a bull elephant seal trying to sneak up on her on a beach in the Falkland Islands, to searching for bats in a Malaysian forest at midnight and not knowing what creature was rustling the trees nearby.
During the elephant seal project, Jamieson and a group of volunteers conducted daily beach surveys to identify individual seals, assess whether any were pregnant, observe the seals’ behavior, and document breeding activity.
"The Falklands were the most remote place I’ve ever been," she said. "I walked through a field of penguins to get to a beach full of seals with orcas surfacing just off the coast. It was amazing!"
She recently took on an expanded role at Earthwatch coordinating events, outreach, and a network of 200 volunteer field representatives throughout North America. Among other duties, she represents Earthwatch at "adventure travel exhibitions," plans environmental events for teachers around the country, hosts events for Earthwatch members, and plans speaking tours for biologists. Last November she organized Earthwatch’s annual four-day conference attended by 700 volunteers and scientists.
Jamieson credits her University of Rhode Island adviser, Josef Gorres, with leading her into the world of environmental research. "He helped get me into my major, and was always willing to talk," she said. "And I just loved the hands-on learning and the labs. It was long hours, but I really miss it."
After she gets her fill of international travel and unique wildlife encounters at Earthwatch, Jamieson plans to go to graduate school to become a conservation biologist and, ultimately, to teach at the college level.
"My main interest is in working not just with wildlife, but working with local people and the issues they face concerning wildlife," Jamieson said. "I’m interested in joining the critical issues of the loss of biodiversity with the difficult scientific and societal issues that are essential to resolving them. I want to work with professionals from developing countries to give them capacity building and collaboration opportunities. And I want to help to engage the next generation of conservation biologists.