Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources with a Soil, Water and Land Use concentration
Minor: Applied Ecology
Advisor: Dr. Steve Broome
Lake Atitlán Ethnographic Field School Scholarship
NCSU Office of Undergraduate Research Grant
I plan to use my degree to:
The purpose of pursuing my degree was always to develop a well-rounded ability to help people better manage and protect their water resources. If all goes according to plan, I hope to take what I have learned here at NC State and apply that to working in water management at the state level. I am also excited to begin working as a volunteer mentor for an EPA initiative aimed at expanding the use of citizen science to provide high quality wetlands monitoring data.
What I enjoyed most about my experience at NC State was:
Studying research methods at the Ethnographic Field School in Guatemala was a transformative experience for me. In 2017, I traveled by myself- by bus, plane, boat, and tuk tuk- to reach San Pedro la Laguna. There, I would spend the next few months living with an indigenous Maya family and learning about stakeholder communication challenges in watershed management in developing countries. The people I connected with were incredibly gracious in sharing their homes, knowledge, and experiences with me. I approached the opportunity with a meticulously drawn out plan, and Dr. Wallace and his program assistant offered amazing support and advice for conducting field research. Many different languages are spoken in this small region around Lake Atitlán. Some cultural differences were much more apparent than others, yet learning in an environment seemingly so different from my home only strengthened my understanding of the ways that people everywhere are alike.
One of the most important lessons I learned was that no matter how carefully you plan something, actually being there, doing the work in the field, is an entirely different story. There is no substitute for that type of education. Equipment will break, miscommunications will happen, EARTHQUAKES will happen, opportunities will come by once- with no chance for a do-over, you will be uncomfortable and sometimes maybe even embarrass yourself. Even when that happens, you can still find a way within yourself to get through, connect with people, and get the job done. Being prepared set me up to better handle the unexpected ups and downs…but only to a certain extent. Approaching field research with a respectful, upbeat attitude, a sense of humor, and a willingness to listen, help, and learn from people’s stories brought forth numerous opportunities and gave me a much clearer insight into how communities work to meet their water challenges.
While earning my degree, my greatest supporters were:
Last year, Dr. Gardner invited me to work as an undergraduate researcher in the Soil and Environmental Microbial Ecology Lab with Dr. Frene and himself. The first few months in the lab were perhaps the steepest learning curve I have ever experienced. They both provided me with guidance on conducting research, obtaining grants, managing data, and communicating results at a professional level. I was entrusted with performing research on soil-water pathogens, microbial community function in biochar amended soils, and refining methods for future studies in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. They were there every step of the way to help me refine my presentations and better understand the big picture of my work. Before I started in the lab, I never would have envisioned myself as able to do this kind of work. Now, both having learned many new skills and co-authored papers that add to our body of knowledge in soil science are accomplishments that I am immensely proud of. The quality of that experience has already opened many doors for me, and I am extremely grateful for the dedication Dr. Gardner and Dr. Frene showed in teaching me these skills.
Dr. Crouse was the first professor I met on campus. He gave me the grand tour of the department and convinced me that transferring to NC State was where I needed to be. He and my advisor Dr. Broome helped to ensure that I was on track academically. Conversations with them about careers and networking strategies have been invaluable. Dr. Patterson took interest in my Guatemala project during a hallway conversation. He invited me to speak to his Master’s class about my research abroad. That man makes you feel like you can tackle the world.
Finally, Ms. DesLauriers, our Undergraduate Programs Specialist, is undoubtedly the unsung hero of the Crop and Soil Sciences Department. She was a cheerleader when I was on the verge of finals week burnout, and was always there to answer my many, many questions about grades and credits. I owe this lady a hug and some chocolate.
Now that I have completed the program, I’m most looking forward to:
I’ve learned so much during my time here at NC State, but there is nothing like having that piece of paper in hand saying “You did it. You made it through the whole program.” After graduation, I hope to focus my efforts in the public sector to help improve water quality for the state. Back home, there are also several new additions to my family on the way. Once it is safe to travel, I am looking forward to spending time with my nieces and nephews.
Messages for Mattie Frazier
Congrats Mattie…. I wish I could of been in person to wish you well. Your going to do great things…
– Angela Barefoot