Recognizing PEECs Women of the Web
If you have searched Google hoping to learn more about our local birds, butterflies, fish, flowers, insects, invasive plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, animal tracks, trees, or for a guide to the stars or trails, then you probably stumbled across the work done by these three women: Pajarito Environmental Education Center’s (PEEC’s) volunteer trio Jen, Akkana, and Pat.
These “Women of the Web” are the programmers behind PEEC’s online informational Nature Guides, where you can learn about all things outdoors. The popular nature guides are free to the public and great resources for curious minds.
These women use their skills to create and update the nature guide section of PEEC’s website. Pat is the database expert who set up the backend of the website, and she did a lot of research on each animal and plant. Jen works with CSS formatting and styling, which creates a user friendly and aesthetic website. Akkana works on the programming and dates each animal or plant is prevalent. The trio work together seamlessly creating a product that reaches beyond the Pajarito Plateau. They get together occasionally to meet with experts or to plan the next update or addition to the nature guides. Then, they do most of their volunteer work from home, frequently emailing back and forth. All three work as a team via verbal or digital communication, and each enjoy the flexibility of their work.
Pat spent her childhood in the Midwest where she roamed the woods with her dad catching crawfish in the local creeks and, more importantly, learning from him how to sit very quietly while observing everything around her. When she grew up she received a doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics. She then went on to work for a biopharmaceutical company conducting preclinical and clinical studies. Upon moving to New Mexico, she gave up the lab in favor of helping to develop data management software. Pat spends her free time reading about and watching wildlife as well as using her microbiology background to make fermented goodies like sauerkraut and kimchi.
Jennifer grew up playing in the woods of Ohio and took particular interest in ponds, creeks, and anywhere she could get her good clothes muddy. She studied biology in college and later received a master’s degree in molecular biology. She worked for several years as a molecular biologist, followed by several years as a freelance editor. She currently works part-time for the HIV Database at LANL in T-6, but volunteering at PEEC lets her enjoy her other interests including aquariums, terrariums, earthworms, and amphibians.
Akkana is a recent transplant to Los Alamos, having moved with her husband from Silicon Valley to White Rock in 2014. They love it here and wonder what took them so long. Akkana studied math in college but spent most of her career as a computer programmer, working on a variety of projects from scientific simulations to graphics to data analysis to browser and email development to operating system utilities, specializing in Linux and open source. When she is not sitting at a keyboard she is likely enjoying hiking, astronomy, geology, photography, and watching birds and other critters.
PEEC: What brought you to Los Alamos?
Pat: We moved to N.M. 18 years ago when my husband relocated his medical practice from New Hampshire to Santa Fe. We’ve been living in Santa Fe ever since.
Jen: In 2003, my husband took a job at LANL. We moved here from Virginia, and I had never imagined that I would live in the West. It was a big change from Virginia and Maryland! I love it here.
Akkana: I actually worked at LANL in the 80’s for a couple of years but had to move to California for job reasons. When my husband and I retired a few years ago, we spent time looking for somewhere to live that had beautiful landscape, lots of hiking trails, and a nice small-town atmosphere. Dave was researching weather in the towns we were considering, and I told him Los Alamos weather would probably be too cold and snowy for him. He checked his research and said “That’s not what I’m seeing: the weather looks very mild.” Eventually, he figured out that the winter of 1986-7, when I’d been here, was the coldest, snowiest Los Alamos winter in recorded history. I thought that was typical Los Alamos weather! I am so glad we chose Los Alamos.
PEEC: What are your favorite topics on the Nature Guides?
Pat: Insects. I learned so much about a subject that I knew next to nothing about. Now I can go out my front door and recognize all of the creatures running around out there.
Jen: Reptiles. I’ve always had a special fondness for amphibians and reptiles – really for anything that lives in water or underground. We are also thinking of adding a cloud guide to the nature guides, A fun new project to work on! N.M. is definitely known for the breathtaking blue skies and fluffy clouds.
Akkana: Mammals. I actually didn’t work much on the mammals page but it’s the most interesting to me. I worked a lot on the astronomy sections, which are also fascinating.
PEEC: How does volunteering with PEEC enrich your life?
Pat chimed in and talked about how the three of them reach out to nature photographers when they are seeking pictures for the website; “It’s a great way to meet and connect with other like-minded nature lovers. We’ve found that some photographers are very generous with sharing their work for our website. The connection also helps spread the word about PEEC and the Pajarito Plateau. We’ve meet naturalists from Albuquerque and Santa Fe, bridging the distance between us to create friendships.”
Akkana mentioned the connections spread to other nature and wildlife centers. They’ve noticed other non-profits are linking to PEEC’s nature guides as references for their own guests. Locals print the guides, school children use them as resources for projects. Really anyone interested in learning more about what we see outside will benefit from the nature guides.
The Nature Guides have created new friendships between these three women and helped connect many people to nature. A win-win for these women of the web!
To visit the nature guides click here.
If you are interested in learning more about PEEC and the Los Alamos Nature Center at 2600 Canyon Road visit peecnture.org. To learn more about volunteering, ask to speak with Christa Tyson, Volunteer Coordinator, or send her an email.