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CWSP Alumna Currently Serving as Wetland Scientist on Central Coast

We recently touched base with Cara Clark, an alumna of the Coastal Watershed Science & Policy master's program (CWSP; now known as the Environmental Science master's program) to gain insight into her professional experience following graduation. Since completing her master's degree, Cara has gone on to pursue a career as a Wetland Scientist in the Central Coast region.

To learn more about life after graduate school, check out Cara's interview below.

Cara with her daughter at Aptos Creek
Cara Clark enjoying a stroll with her daughter along Aptos Creek
Cara in front of a picturesque wetland
Cara conducting a wetland assessment at Elkhorn Slough

What is your current profession?

I currently serve as a Wetland Scientist with the Central Coast Wetlands Group at Moss Landing Marine Labs. My role takes me through varied disciplines and across the state for field research. I am currently wrapping up a project on rapid assessment of arid episodic streams. I collected data at over 30 locations across California and used those data to refine and validate the method. My next major project will be studying riparian areas and implementing methods to manage and restore them with partners in local, state, and federal agencies. I also work locally on wetland restoration for habitat and water quality. I have developed my botany skills and I am the go-to person on our team for plant ID and plant palette creation.

Do you have any recent achievements that you would like to share with us?

I recently published a paper on rapid assessment of vernal pools. I have presented at several high level conferences over the last few years, including the Society of Wetland Scientists, the Society of Freshwater Scientists, the Ecological Society of America, the California Society for Ecological Restoration, and others. I am a lead trainer in the California Rapid Assessment Method and a member of the statewide Level 2 Committee, a subsidiary of the California Wetland Monitoring Workgroup, which reports to the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.

How did your experience as a graduate student contribute to your current career pathway?

I gained a lot of great skills in statistics, GIS, hydrologic modeling, and other technology. More importantly, I learned how to go about scientific research and find the technical aspects necessary for any project. The details may change over time, but the overarching methods are the same. I also made great connections with my cohort, undergraduates, staff, and faculty. Those connections have continued in new ways as I have moved through my career in the region.

What was your most memorable experience in the graduate program?

A couple of field trips stand out. One of our field trips took us out to the Triple M Ranch with Doug's class and involved surveying the cross section of the creek. It was an adventure bushwhacking through the riparian zone, but I remember being enthralled by taking those real world data and viewing them on the computer and in hydrologic models that revealed how the system would flood under different conditions.

Looking back, what graduate-level skill has been most helpful in your career?

Scientific writing!

"As part of the very first cohort for this program it is really cool to see how it has grown and blossomed." - Cara Clark

Another great example of the extraordinary opportunities that await CSUMB graduates. Thank you for keeping in touch, Cara! :)