Watershed forum staffer ready for African adventure

Posted: Friday, July 31, 2009

There's leaving a job to move on to greener pastures, then there is what Jennifer McCard is moving on to, which is more like lush green jungles filled with exotic wildlife.

"We're going to be living in Kigali, Rwanda," McCard said, referring to the African country where she and her fianc, Alex Peterson, will soon be headed.

McCard currently works for as a watershed scientist for the Kenai Watershed Forum, but she started with the conservation and education-focused organization long before that.

"I first started there as an intern, back in 2004," she said.

After her internship ended, McCard returned to college at the University of Southern California to finish her degree in environmental studies, also minoring in international relations as serendipity would have it.

In 2007, she returned to the Kenai Watershed Forum where she has been since, and while it has only been a couple of years, she has succeeded in much during that time. She wrote a $1.5 million grant for the restoration of Dave's Creek in Cooper Landing, worked on the invasive reed canary grass mapping project, assisted with the fish passage culvert assessments, and took part in the water quality database for the Kenai River, just to name a few of her accomplishments.

As to the reason she is leaving, she said an employment opportunity presented itself to her significant other who is quite computer savvy.

"He's an avid blogger, and he read about someone who had a job with the State Department. It sounded good to him, so I told him he should pursue that type of work, and he got it. He'll be doing technical support for the U.S. Embassy in Kigali," McCard said.

"It's really a good opportunity because he has a degree in international relations, so he will be able to apply his schooling with his practical IT knowledge," she added.

As to what McCard will be doing in Africa, she said she is still uncertain.

"I don't currently have anything lined up, but I like working with a conservation organization, so I hope to find a job working with one there. I think I have a lot more to offer the conservation field, so I will volunteer for a few organizations there and see which one fits the best," she said.

McCard said she has mixed feelings about traveling so far from family, friends and all things familiar to her.

"I'm excited and nervous, but the more I learn about it, the less nervous I become," she said.

McCard said it is difficult to envision what living in Africa will be like, since she hasn't done much international travelling, and has never lived abroad for an extended period.

"I spent a month in Argentina in high school during an exchange program, and last year I went with Alex to New Zealand for three weeks, but I think compared to being a tourist, living somewhere like this will be a lot different experience," she said.

As to leaving the Kenai Watershed Forum, McCard said it will be difficult since she has enjoyed her time and coworkers.

"It'll be hard saying goodbye to a great job and an outstanding group of people," she said.

In addition to McCard leaving, the staff at the Kenai Watershed Forum will soon be getting smaller for another reason, as four interns are also finishing their summer service: Samantha Fox, Megan Haserdt, Bill Garthwaite and Bethany McMilin.

To wish all those leaving success, the Kenai Watershed Forum will be hosting a farewell barbecue Sunday at 4 p.m., at their headquarters in the Soberg House in Soldotna Creek Park.

Barbecue ribs, chicken and salmon will be served. Family, friends, coworkers and well-wishers who attend are asked to please bring a favorite side dish. For more information on the festivities, call the Kenai Watershed Forum at 260-5449.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.

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