Meet Research and Policy intern Bri Jol

Bri Jol woman crouching on rock with water in the backgroundjoined Freshwater’s research and policy team in February 2022 with expertise in biology, environmental studies, geographic information systems, communications, organizing, and fire-fighting! Oh my! Throughout her time with Freshwater, Bri has contributed to numerous projects including her culminating internship project leading a workshop on water across Minnesota’s northern ceded territories. We learned a lot from Bri throughout her time at Freshwater – and we loved working with her! Read more about Bri in our interview with her below. 

Q: Where and what did you study in college? 

A: I attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, graduating in 2020 with a dual degree in Biology and Environmental Studies and a minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Q: How did you get interested in that field? 

A: I love the way work in the environmental sector so often includes countless perspectives, ways of thinking, and fields of exploration. I grew up spending countless hours outside playing, camping, hiking, and exploring with my family. I was a pretty curious kid, and I asked A LOT of questions – something I carried with me into college where I spent my time taking as many environmentally-oriented classes as I possibly could, as well as participating in several student-led organizations and movements on campus and in the community. The intersection of environmentally-focused science, communication, and meaningful impact really came to light for me during my semester abroad in India, field work in Ecuador, and position on a fire ecology crew in New Mexico!

Q: Where did you grow up/go to high school? 

A: I grew up in Eau Claire, WI, and I attended Eau Claire Memorial High School.

Q: What projects did/have you worked on at Freshwater? 

A: During my time at Freshwater, I worked on several projects and background research; I engaged with topics ranging from carbon sequestration techniques to extractive industries to participatory-based research models to environmental training programs. I participated in several field visits, including to the Shingobee Research Station in northern Minnesota and Eagle Mine near Marquette, Michigan. I attended the Geoscience Alliance Conference on “Data Science in Indian Country” on behalf of Freshwater and explored mapping methods for sharing parts of Freshwater’s work. My main project work with Freshwater began with co-writing and submitting a letter of inquiry to the Initiative Foundation’s call for transformative ideas on “Water Camp-Training in Environmental Monitoring as a Career-Path for Indigenous & Rural Communities.” While we didn’t receive this grant, this prompted a reevaluation of outreach and organizational priorities and a transition to planning, coordinating, and hosting an exploratory workshop on water across Minnesota’s northern ceded territories. This workshop, hosted this past August in Cass Lake, MN, included core goals of creating connections, having meaningful conversations, and listening to what the needs were in addressing water challenges across the region. After 4 months of logistical planning, communication and outreach, and developing materials, this workshop served as the culmination of my internship and has helped position Freshwater to take important next steps in growing relationships and engaging in collaborative strategies with new partners to tackle surface and groundwater challenges. Throughout the many pieces of projects and types of work, I appreciated the chance to get to know the incredible staff at Freshwater, experience working at a nonprofit, and undertake a project from conception to realization.

Q: What skills have you developed through those projects, how will they help you in the future and in your career? 

A: I gained a lot of practice communicating with others in general, as well as communicating specific ideas or thought processes. I connected with people across areas of expertise, levels of an organization, points in careers, etc., and this included everything from writing professional emails and letters of inquiry, hosting and attending Zoom meetings, and in-person conversations and presentations. This was a fantastic opportunity to work with a nonprofit, especially in a way that I was able to help translate science into action and communicate the importance of what the organization does. That is a piece that will certainly stay with me – the capacity we have to create connections, build relationships, share resources, hold space, and center voices that aren’t always uplifted. 

Q: What’s next for you? 

A: At the end of the summer, I wrapped up my internship with Freshwater and moved up to Finland, MN, where I am currently working as a naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. I am also a part of the 10-month graduate naturalist training program, during which I’ll be studying the natural history of the north shore, environmental education methods and foundations, and sustainability in practice. Thus far, I’ve loved every chance I’ve had to spend each day outside, connect with others, practice communicating science, and learn from my surroundings each and every day. After this program, I have my sights set on environmental education, field work (possibly in fire ecology!), and eventually graduate school.

Q: What are your career aspirations? 

A: I want to continually improve my science communication skills and actively pursue lifelong learning in various capacities. I’ve really enjoyed stepping into the world of environmental education at Wolf Ridge, and I’d also love to continue exploring the world of field work and research, particularly through fire ecology and groundwater.

Q: What changes do you want to make in the world? 

A: I want to make a difference by stepping back and supporting existing initiatives and projects, especially those led by individuals and communities most affected by the changes and problems we are facing in the world today. I hope to continue contributing to and collaborating with others in the scientific world, but expand that reach, understanding, and process to collect data and follow through to actually influence change, science communication, and bridging communities.  

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

A: I love to be outside, so you’ll often find me on a run, hiking, camping, or fishing with my partner, Jeremy. After splashing in the puddles or making some snowballs on a day of precipitation, I love curling up with a good book, playing cribbage or cards, and cooking and baking. I frequent local cafes and coffee shops, always on the hunt for a baked good, and I can’t wait for the next time I get to travel whether it be close or far from home.