It’s March, which means it’s time to celebrate Women’s History Month and all of the women in NRCS who help us help our customers.
This year, we wanted to highlight some of the amazing women in and around Idaho, including our Assistant State Conservationist Amie Miller, Hydrologist Erin Whorton and Soils scientist Shanna Bernal-Fields. We asked these ladies a few important questions about being women in conservation, and here are their responses.
What is your favorite thing about being a woman in conservation?
Amie Miller: That I’m able to be in it! I understand there’s lots of steps that have been taken for it to not be so challenging for me, and I am very thankful and so very fortunate. We have lots of roles in our agency and I appreciate that I work for an agency that does that and that they recognize and try to make sure we have diversity across the board, whether it’s race or gender.
Erin Whorton: Mentoring and being seen as someone that can inspire people to pursue their own career goals is actually really cool. I never really experienced that, so I did step into those leadership roles where kids are like “can I interview you for my school project?” or something super cool like that. I love it! I represent a face that might be more familiar than just men. That’s a very satisfying thing and I really like helping and mentoring college-age and graduate students. I think I help kind of pave the way for long-term diversity in the future.
Shanna Bernal-Fields: I have always liked science and been drawn to the outdoors and being in conservation and with NRCS has allowed me to serve my country and to work in conservation.
What would you say to a young woman who is interested in conservation and natural resources? How might she get started?
Amie Miller: I would say if you do not have a background in farming and ranching, go work for a farmer or rancher. Go get a summer job, go build a fence, go change water, go work for these folks. If you don’t need the money, volunteer at a nursery. Go to the feed lot. Find someone and actually experience what they go through. Make it a skill, because that’s the only way you’ll get good at it. It’s about getting on the ground.
Erin Whorton: I think, in general, people really want you to succeed and people really want you there. I think it’s important to be aware that there are still barriers as a woman, and to not take it personally. Sometimes that stuff can feel very personal and it’s really unfortunate that we still have obstacles that we have to overcome. I would just say that if you can find opportunities in your field, take them!
Shanna Bernal-Fields: It kind of depends on your interest. Soil science is a specialty, but it draws on a bit of everything. I got a pretty good mix of background of core technical classes, which was great. I had to do a little bit of everything myself, but it gave me a diverse foundation to build on. Once you find something you really like, you can go deep in the weeds and really specialize.
Women’s History Month offers us a space to celebrate the amazing women in our agency, but March shouldn’t be the only time we highlight them. The women in our agency ought to be honored each and every day.
For information about Women in NRCS (WiN), visit https://www.winnrcs.org/ .