A Day in the Life of an Environmental Scientist

In honor of Springs Protection Awareness Month, Madison Trowbridge shares what it’s like to be a springs scientist at the District, the important work she does and why she loves it.

When I was a kid, I decided to be a scientist after our teacher read us a story about the famous marine biologist, Sylvia Earle. I pictured myself on a research vessel in the middle of the ocean, writing down measurements on a notepad.

Madison Trowbridge at Crystal River

Many years later, I did become a scientist. Instead of becoming a marine biologist, I became an environmental scientist focusing on water quality in our springs and aquifer. However, the vision I had in third grade didn’t quite capture all that being a scientist entails.

One benefit is that every day is different. I can be out in the field one day and sitting at my desk reading about research from halfway across the world the next. Even in a single day, a scientist can switch tasks from analyzing data, to writing technical reports, to reading research articles.

Field work is a big part of my job, and it involves collecting data and samples. No matter the long days or the sunburns, working on the springs never gets old. Every field day takes my breath away just like the first time I visited the springs and I still get excited every time I see an otter or a manatee. It is incredibly humbling to work in an ecosystem that has been around for so long and will remain long after I’m gone.

Data analysis is another important part of the job because it allows us to understand the field measurements we have collected. One of my favorite parts of my job, though, is giving presentations to different audiences.

Communication of ideas is arguably the most important aspect of being an environmental scientist. What I find most rewarding is talking to nonscientists about environmental science, especially kids. I love watching kids’ eyes light up when I explain to them what I do because it gives me hope that I’ve inspired someone the same way Sylvia Earle inspired me.