Where They’re Headed: Gabriel Oppler ’17

First as a scientist, and then as an educator, Gabriel Oppler ’17 will apply his love for the outdoors in his upcoming jobs in Northern Wisconsin and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

East Coast native Gabriel Oppler ’17 is on a post-graduation path that will take him far from home. This summer, he is working as a botany field technician with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in their Northern Wisconsin field sites. NEON is a National Science Foundation-funded project in the process of collecting 30 years of ecological data across the continent. Across its 20 ecoclimatic domains, it will provide scientists and policymakers with extensive information about changes occurring in the natural world.

Then, he will move even farther west to La Honda, Calif., in early September for an internship with San Mateo Outdoor Education (SMOE). As a naturalist intern, he will lead local middle school students on guided nature hikes through the area’s natural habitats, imparting core ecological concepts, such as adaptation and change, communities and ecosystems, and diversity and interdependence. His internship will last a year, and he will be living with 10 other naturalists among Northern California’s natural beauty.

“My summer job at NEON and upcoming job at SMOE are very different in some ways… but share a key similarity in that they will both allow me to spend the majority of my days outside,” said Oppler, who majored in biology and minored in environmental studies and Spanish. “Both academically—as an environmental studies minor—and personally, spending time in nature has always been my biggest passion. Coming from the East Coast, I am incredibly excited to explore two new parts of the country.”

Oppler will be drawing from a wide breadth of his Haverford experiences in his jobs ahead. He gained the botanical skills that he will employ in Wisconsin from his study abroad experience with SIT Ecuador in their Comparative Ecology and Conservation program. He also conducted fieldwork in Trinidad and Tobago with Assistant Professor of Biology Jonathan Wilson, as part of his “Economic Botany” course. As he moves on to California, Oppler expects to benefit from the “Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies” course he took with Assistant Professor of Anthropology Joshua Moses.

“I am especially appreciative of my professors and mentors in the Biology Department and Environmental Studies Program who encouraged me to pursue these positions,” he said.

Hoping to continue working in the environmental field, Oppler will use this upcoming year to test out some possible career options and see what best suits him. He eventually plans to attend graduate school, but is unsure which specific degree to pursue. But beyond the opportunities to try new types of work, Oppler looks forward to spending a year working towards goals that inspire him.

“I am super excited for both of these jobs, because I truly believe in their missions,” he said. Working with both veteran scientists and the scientists of tomorrow, the recent Haverford grad looks forward to taking in the mild summer weather of the Great Lakes woodlands and the natural beauty of mountains and redwood forests in Northern California.


“Where They’re Headed”is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.