Nicole Gaudenti, Bachelor's in Biology '15

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Making a difference by conserving biodiversity

Nicole Gaudenti '15 sees her passion for biology as a way to help the many beautiful and ecologically diverse species that have been adversely affected and endangered by human impact. After graduating from USF with her bachelor's in biology, Nicole spent five months doing field research near Bolinas, California with Point Blue Conservation Science, where she spent most of her days getting covered in poison oak while searching for and monitoring songbird nests. She said the amazing experience made the poison oak worth it, and is currently back doing her second field research assignment with Point Blue.

She credits her volunteer opportunities, research, and the upper division field courses that she took at USF with preparing her for her work with Point Blue.

How did the biology program prepare you for the work you're doing now?

I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling to Yosemite valley one summer with Professor Scott Nunes to help him with his Belding's ground squirrel population study. The field research skills I acquired from this experience directly carried into my first professional field research gig — a really fun ecosystem study with UC Berkeley that focused on kangaroo rats. Not only was I already comfortable handling small mammals and placing metal tags on their ears, I also already knew how I would deal with living in a remote place for a long period of time and what gear I would need. Now that I'm in the bird world, I am reinforcing and adding to what I learned in my California wildlife course with Professor Gary Stevens, where he was very passionate about birds and undoubtedly served as an inspiration.

How did the volunteering opportunities you had at USF contribute to your passion for conserving biodiversity?

I had the opportunity to connect with both the Golden Gate Audubon Society and the Presidio Trust in Professor Jennifer Dever's conservation biology class, where we would regularly go and volunteer. We would plant native trees and shrubs and remove harmful introduced species that were out-competing native species and decreasing the opportunity for other native organisms to thrive (i.e. a bird who evolved with a native tree and may rely on it for food). Restoration volunteering is really fun work, and it's just fun to get outside and get your hands dirty, with the bonus of contributing to biodiversity in a small way.

What is your fondest memory from the Biology program?

I struggle to choose a single, or even a few, favorite moments. The summer spent in Yosemite valley with Professor Nunes will always be a gem in my memory, and I am forever grateful for that opportunity during an important formative time of my life. I was also luck enough to be a part of Professor James Sikes' first Galapagos immersion class, which was a truly indescribable experience that I will always treasure.

How do you continue to carry on USF's Jesuit mission?

My passion for biology and ecology is inextricably tied to my desire to make a positive contribution, in the best way my introverted self can manage, educating and inspiring people about all the beautiful organisms on the planet and their undeniable connection to us. Any person can contribute in a small way to reducing humans' impact on the planet, and organizations and schools need to facilitate such conversations in a way where people still feel valued. At Point Blue, among many other outreach programs, there are organized groups consisting of a range of people who come to the research station and go on fun educational bird walks with us, and I hope to continue to involve myself with similar organizations in the future.