Meet our Chernoff Family Field Scholars: Jessie Pearl

Jessie Pearl stands in a forest with her hand resting on a large tree.Degree program: PhD

I get to do a lot of awesome fieldwork. From chain-sawing thousand-year-old wood in hip-deep mud, to hummuck-hopping in swamps along the coasts of New England, each field site is different and has a story! One of my favorite field stories is when I took a group of brave volunteers out on the coldest day of the year in January 2015 to core trees in a swamp that was deemed ‘impenetrable.' We snowshoed through huge snowdrifts for two miles before getting to the trees only to find that they had frozen solid! We cored a few “treesicles” but eventually had to go get warm and try again in the summer!

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How did you become interested in geosciences?
I am extremely lucky that the outdoors is an extension of my office, and that I get to ask questions about the environment around me everyday. I grew up in glacially formed landscapes, and I was fascinated by the processes that carved the hills and rivers of New England. I took my first geology class in in college and never looked back!

Please tell us about your research.
My dissertation research focuses on the climate dynamics of the northeastern United States, a densely populated region that is experiencing increasing temperatures, sea level rise, and changing storm variability. I use Atlantic White cedar (AWC) tree-rings and coastal sediment records to reconstruct much needed records of past climate and storms beyond the short instrumental records. This project has a significant field component. Locating and accessing mature, living AWC swamps and coastal sub-fossil sites requires multiple scouting trips, meetings with land stewards, and relationships with local conservation commissions.

What do you plan to do after you graduate?
I aspire to have a career that will combine my passions for both 1) preparation and understanding of climate hazards and change, and 2) science education. I am particularly interested in preparing coastal communities for increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters and climate stresses. This work occurs in many capacities including the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Geological Survey, the National Park Service, and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Agency.