Caroline is originally from:
Ridgefield, Connecticut. My family still lives there.
It is hard to choose! But, one of my favorite plant communities is a red spruce forest. I spent some time working for the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains collecting seeds for restoring reclaimed mines back to red spruce forests. Red spruce forests are gorgeous and magical – they are absolutely COVERED in moss, ferns and mushrooms and have salamanders and toads roaming along in the microworld of the forest floor. The red spruce forests in West Virginia are disjunct from other populations, which mainly occur in northern Vermont and northward. The ones in the Alleghenies are ancient relics of ecosystems that existed prior to the recession of the last glaciers, and as such feel SUPER old. They live only on the tip tops of mountains in West VA where the climate remains cool enough to sustain them.
Favorite thing to do when not working:
I love spending time in the city parks throwing around a frisbee with my friends, going for a trail run, cross-country skiing, trying new beers at the many breweries Denver has to offer, sketching and drawing, and going to dance-y concerts where I can really boogie.
Suzanne Simard is one of them! She is a badass female scientist who pushed through the rampant misogyny and sexism that can exist in the field of biology (especially in the 80s) and discovered/championed (for western science) the symbiotic relationship between plants and fungi. It’s one of the neatest (re)discoveries in nature, that shows that plants communicate with one another and share resources across landscapes through the mycorrhizal fungi in their soil systems.
Childhood career ambition:
I wanted to be an illustrator of children’s books. Sometimes I still dream about doing that on the side—would love to illustrate a book that gets kids excited about nature and science in an accessible way.
Favorite book and movie:
Oof, it’s hard to sound well-rounded in this Q&A because I keep talking about nature. But I have to say, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is my favorite book of all time. It’s what made me decide to go back to school and study ecology, since her writing on science and botany made it feel so much more accessible to me. Favorite movie is probably the Darjeeling Limited.
Music that instantly puts Caroline into a good mood:
Can’t go wrong with Rich Girl by Hall & Oats. It reminds me of the jukebox from a bar in this small town in northern Wisconsin where I used to live. We all used to really boogie to it.
If Caroline could be a superhero, her superpower would be:
I have a cat, Moona. She is 3 years old and is a complete adventure kitty. I’ve trained her to walk on a leash and we go “hiking” in the mountains sometimes. I found her in the woods in West Virginia and have no idea how she got there! When I get to walk with her off-leash she loves climbing the trees along the path, then sprints suuuper fast to catch up with the humans.
Special skill or passion:
Prior to returning to school for my master’s, I spent seven years leading backcountry trips for young people. I’ve probably spent over 400 days in the backcountry on extended camping trips from the Bitterroots in Idaho to the Brooks Range in Alaska. My longest trip I led was in the Alaskan Arctic for 45 days. I’ve also led a bunch of canoeing and kayaking trips in the Great Lakes and in the Quetico/Boundary Waters. I really miss that lifestyle, but it also wasn’t sustainable for me, and so I’ve been making a point of integrating my skills and values into my current life in Denver. Sometimes I’ve gotten to whitewater kayak and backpack for my work as an Ecologist, which has been an amazing merging of the two worlds!
Most memorable experience in nature:
Probably when I had to retrieve a cheesecake from the middle of an arctic lake! Quite the absurd story. For dried cheesecake mix, you have to cool it off in a cool body of water to congeal it and make it solid. We were trying to cool a cheesecake off in a cold lake (Chandler Lake, in the Gates of the Arctic NP), and it floated away when we weren’t looking! This was on one of my Alaska trips and the water was SO cold, but I had to go swim after it because it was our only large pot and we still had 20 days left of our trip. My participant, Kenzie and I braved the 40 degree water and rescued the cake about 300 feet out. It was SO cold but super tasty, and worth it.
Favorite food to eat or make:
I love me some grain bowls with a deelish custom sauce. It’s all about the sauce, which can really change the whole meal. Nice to throw in a bunch of ingredients and make a tasty nutritious meal for my friends.
Further ReadingMeet Landscape Designer Emma Podietz
Get to Know Ecologist Caroline Hildebrand
Get to know Water Resources Engineer Nate Wadley
Biohabitats Senior Engineer & Practice Leader, Erin English, on the Rewilding Earth Podcast
Meet Integrated Water Resources Engineer Helen Little
More From This AuthorGet to Know Water Resources Engineer Sydney Salzwedel
E+D Podcast with Keith Bowers: The state of ecology and design in landscape architecture
Get to know Water Resources Engineer Nate Wadley
Get to know Julia Richter, Water Resources Engineer
Get to know Jensen Hufnagel, Operations Assistant