Jill Peters, BS ’14, has always been drawn to nature. Peters grew up in a national park in northern Wisconsin, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where she dreamed of working in the field. So, when she came to UW-Madison she decided to major in Biology and she got to work studying with the hope of one day doing conservation work in the great outdoors.
However, it wasn’t long until she realized Biology wasn’t quite the right fit. “Biology just felt a bit too broad for what I wanted to do,” notes Peters. Luckily, one of her friends recommended the Department of Life Sciences Communication, and according to Jill it was the perfect fit. “I always knew I wanted to work in conservation in some capacity, but I also wanted to have a creative outlet. I always wanted to do communications because I love writing and photography – they just come naturally to me.” So, in her third year at UW, Jill decided to major in LSC and get her certificate in Environmental Studies.
While at LSC, Jill worked for the department as a communications intern doing photography, website management, and social media. The daughter of a photo journalist, Peters has always had an interest in photography. She took a visual communication course with professor Shiela Reaves where she learned about the science of visuals, which in combination with her creative eye helped her excel. Peters also honed her social media and writing skills. She took a social media course with faculty associate Don Stanley and a science and technology newswriting course with senior lecturer Mike Flaherty where she learned strategies to be successful on social, and mastered the ability to tell a compelling story – both skills she still uses daily.
But according to Jill, her favorite part of LSC was being able to work with clients. “One of the great things about LSC is that everything is so project based. I actually gained real-world experience. I was learning skills I was going to use in my future job and gaining actual experience by helping different organizations. LSC’s hands-on approach to learning is really what helped me.”
When it came time to graduate, Jill still dreamed of working outdoors, but it was comforting to know she had the ability to take her career in multiple directions. “Just with my close friends in LSC, we went in such different directions. Which is so cool – it is such a versatile major. You can follow so many different career paths with an LSC major, which is what makes it so unique. I had classmates that went off to work for their family’s dairy farms, or run businesses, or do social media for private agencies, so you can go in so many directions.”
Today, Jill has landed her dream job and works as a Park Ranger – Science Communication for the National Park Service at Fire Island National Seashore in New York. Fire Island National Seashore is a dynamic barrier island landscape. The island has a unique wilderness breach caused by Hurricane Sandy and a globally rare ecosystem, the Sunken Forest, which is one of only two known old-growth maritime holly forests in the world, making it a hub for research.
As a Science Communication Park Ranger, Peters updates the park’s website, manages the park’s social media accounts, designs a variety of educational materials, writes articles, and copyedits materials marked for distribution to the public. “Much of my work involves trying to relay this complicated research to the public at large because as a national park it is vital we ensure that we are appropriately communicating with diverse members of the public,” notes Jill.
Her position is the perfect fit as she is still able to do national resource management within the park allowing her to get outside and making her intimately aware of the content she is communicating through her role.
“Everything just fell into place. I ended up at Fire Island. Now I have the privilege to work for the National Park Service, doing field biology and science communication. This is really my dream job. Every single day I get to go out and work on a barrier island and explore. I get to be in a national park every day. If I need some social media pictures, I just go out and hike the beach. There is always an outdoor aspect.”
According to Jill, she has LSC to thank for helping her get to where she is today. She made lasting relationships with faculty and classmates and gained knowledge on a variety of communication mediums which she still uses today.