Welcome to the sixth of the TREE interviews! Click HERE to read more about the TREE program and its relevance to my book, RIVER’S EDGE.
Today I (Erin) am interviewing Maribel Piñon!
E: Hi Maribel! Tell us the years you were at Thomson Causeway.
E: At the time, were you a student in high school, college, or graduate school? If you were conducting research, what was your focus?
M: Both in high school and an undergraduate in college; my focus was on the western hognose snake microhabitat selection.
E: How did you first decide to participate in the TREE program?
M: I first decided to attend TREE when I was a junior in high school because I saw the description and I really liked what they had to offer. I was really looking forward to working with professors, and especially the animals.
E: What was your favorite part of TREE?
M: There are a lot of things that I like about TREE, but I think the best part is that even though I am working it doesn’t feel like work and that I am always having a great time.
E: Can you share an anecdote or funny story about your time there?
M: My absolute favorite story from turtle camp is when my best friend Jessica called out for my help. We had gotten done with work and our shower runs. I was lying in bed and snuggled up and ready to fall asleep when I hear Jessica call my name. “Maribel, can you come help, there is a spider in my tent.” Of course I said to myself really I am so comfortable in my sleeping bag, but I decided to go out and help her. She asks me if I could hold her light so she could get the spider out, but the action of just how scared she was . . . well, too hilarious to not laugh. So there I am laughing and Jessica decides that by telling me, “Hold it steady (the flashlight),” everything would be better, but that made me laugh even more! We eventually lost the spider. She took everything out of her tent and she just couldn’t find the spider. I decide to be a good friend and ask her if she wants to sleep in my tent and of course she says yes. The next morning, first thing we do is search her tent for the spider and we still couldn’t find it. When I suddenly see the spider not in the tent but in her hair. I respond with, “Jessica I found the spider,” and she said, “Where?” and to that I responded with, “In your hair!”
E: How did TREE benefit you later in your education or career?
M: When I entered Iowa State I was very comfortable. I knew a professor and graduate students that I could go to their office to ask for advice. It was my first day of college and I was already part of a research lab. Not many freshmen could say that, and I felt very honored and privileged.
E: Who would you recommend the TREE program to, and why?
M: I would recommend TREE to anyone. Even if you have no interest in research you learn so much, and you could change your career goals. I went into TREE thinking I was going to become a veterinarian. In my second year of TREE I decided that instead of veterinary school I would go to graduate school to conduct more research of my interest.
E: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about TREE?
M: TREE is a place to learn, not only about ecology and research, but you also learn about yourself and what you want for a career goal. The best part is the people you meet. You spend 24/7 with them. That may seem too much and that you would get annoyed with them, but in reality they become your best friends. You all have something in common so conversations never end. The friendship will always be there, and the networking you do with graduate students and with Fred (Dr. Janzen) is great. They all have been a great contribution to my career and they become amazing mentors.
Maribel, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions! So great to hear about your experiences with TREE, and how it even influenced your choice of career! 😉
Readers, 10% of RIVER’S EDGE sales through May 5th will be donated to the TREE program. Help support future turtle research and young biologists!