Adventure in Her Blood

adventureBreeanne "Breezy" Jackson '04 can take the heat — and the mind-numbing cold. As an environmental scientist, Jackson has done everything from gather data in the blistering heat of a wildfire to her current job—teaching survival skills to research scientists in Antarctica.

Adventure, it seems, is in her blood. "I grew up in the mountains near Yosemite, and my parents were always planning snow skiing, pack trips into the Minarets, or sailing in the Channel Islands," she said.

Jackson's time in the snow makes her uniquely qualified to teach in Antarctica, one of the harshest environments on the planet. "The weather here can be very extreme, and we train to survive the worst kind of storms," she said, adding that she teaches research scientists how to build snow walls, anchor tents in blowing snow and high winds, even survive in a whiteout.

In contrast, Jackson has spent the last few summers studying the effects of wildfires on ecosystems in Idaho and Yosemite National Park. Working toward her doctorate at the Ohio State University, she applied for two grants to spend this summer working in Yosemite, where the Rim Fire had a powerful impact on her.

"I remember riding my motorcycle back from a trip to town and seeing the smoke billowing up like an anvil to the sky. I guessed the size at about 80,000 acres. I was correct, but it doubled and tripled in size within days."

Jackson's love for adventure was nurtured at Saint Mary's College, where she took full advantage of the Jan Term travel opportunities, including Ron Olowin's Archaoastronomy course in New Mexico. "We froze, stargazing in the desert winter, ate amazing blue corn enchiladas in Santa Fe, and were welcomed into homes of Hopi people during their festivals," she recalled.

As Jackson continues her graduate study, she'll be looking for opportunities to grow.

"Dr. Olowin always advised me to take 'a deep breath,' meaning, expose yourself to the breadth of topics, and go deeply in each. And my mom tells me to keep my options open. Their advice has served me well so far."