Julie Rebh ‘22 is spending her summer on the American Prairie Reserve near Malta, MT. The biology major with an environmental studies minor is currently a grassland plants and insects intern at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. There, she is working under Ellen Welti, community ecologist at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
“This is a really remote location that is home to a lot of biodiversity, but due to the remote nature and vast amount of land that the prairie covers, there isn’t a lot of work that has been done cataloging what species live in this habitat,” she said. “My work includes identifying as many plant and insect species in this area as possible in order to understand what species live in this habitat and inform conservation practices based on this information.”
Rebh is also responsible for collecting samples of the plants and insects, so that they might be used for later identification and DNA barcoding.
Rebh credited her biology coursework at Haverford with helping her develop interests in her fields.
“I was exposed to a really diverse range of biology courses and was able to decide what I liked and what I didn’t really like,” she said. “Additionally, being able to develop my own research question and independently work through the entire scientific process in Superlab allowed me to gain confidence in my scientific abilities.”
She used those skills in her thesis on pollination ecology. Her thesis, along with internships outside of Haverford, all led her to realize her interest in plant and pollination ecology. In particular, she realized that she was most interested in pursuing hands-on field work. Thus, when she found the opportunity, she knew it was perfect for her.
Rebh recognized that she was able to pursue this career after receiving some inspiration from her professors.
“In looking at the career paths of my own professors I realized that it was ok to try something new or something I had never done as it will allow me to truly understand what my interests are and how they align with my long-term goals,” she said.
She recommended that current students adopt that same philosophy.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone as it will allow you to really hone in on your interests,” she said.
Rebh also noted that research opportunities at Haverford really helped her gain experience for career work, and they allowed her to stand out in the application process.
Rebh will conclude her work in Montana in September, at which point she will return to her hometown of Churchville, PA, where she hopes to continue working in the environmental sector, and eventually apply to graduate school.
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.