Seeing Nature Through New Perspectives

­WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. ­— Taylor Blanford, a third-year Honors College student studying Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES), can trace the foundation of her greatest passions back to early childhood. Growing up with a father employed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Blanford had innumerable opportunities to experience various conservation careers, both in the office as well as at field days of all kinds. This, combined with her natural inclination to be intrigued by things such as learning constellation names, catching crawfish and identifying tree species, led her easily in the direction of NRES when it came time to select a plan of study.

Taylor Blanford

And if that wasn’t evidence enough of her passion for environmental sciences, the junior is quite compelling in explaining it further.

“Environmental issues affect each and every one of us,” Blanford said.  “They are grand and complicated and affect so many parts of so many natural systems that it seems only an all-encompassing grand plan can even hope to solve them. In spite of all of that, the solutions to the environmental challenges we face today (sea level rise, species extinction and soil degradation to name a few) demand solutions that are catered to each unique environment that they manifest themselves in.”

Blanford says she loves environmental sciences because of her passion for the natural world and because she doesn’t need to try to solve all of the world’s environmental problems to be counted as a success. Hard work and dedication to a specific challenge can wind up helping a large number of people live better lives.

“Environmental sciences demand that people value the unique and cater to the needs of every last organism,” Blanford added.  “That is something that I would be happy to spend my career doing.”

Taking her studies a step beyond the classroom, Blanford spent four weeks traveling through Canada and the Pacific Northwest to study natural resource management through Purdue, North Carolina State University and the Swedish Agriculture University.

“The whole trip was simply beyond belief,” she explained.  “Vancouver was an incredible example of an environmentally conscious city. Vancouver Island is one of the most beautiful natural areas I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.”

Blanford also sang the praises of Washington, calling it one of her favorite places due to its small towns, timber operations and ocean research center. Oregon was another favorite.

“There is such an ingrained sense of the environment in all things Oregon that makes it a paradise for environmentally concerned folks like me,” she said.

The mix of students, from three different universities, was also a key part of the trip for Blanford. She says having varying perspectives from three parts of the world brought new ideas to every issue the group discussed. Beyond the geographic locations and people, Blanford had a few more surprising lessons to share..

“First, Poutine is actually really delicious,” she said, laughing. “Suspension bridge parks are completely worth visiting even for those of us terrified of heights. Every night in Forks is an adventure finding dinner and you would not believe where minivans are capable of going. Sea lions will hang out in caves and lay in whole rafts along rocky shores. Banana slugs are some of the coolest invertebrates I have ever come across. Corvallis, Oregon has an amazing farmers market, pizza oven and dessert restaurant, as well as some of the only GMO poplars in the U.S. There are now elk herds around Mt. St. Helens and hikes there are not for the faint of heart.”

In addition to delving into her passion for environmental sciences and making some incredible memories, Blanford developed valuable skills and knowledge from her travel experiences which have impacted many other aspects of her life.

“The most valuable perspective I took away from this trip is a respect for all groups involved in environmental issues and an understanding that unless you immerse yourself in these kinds of issues, you will never be able to fully understand how to resolve them,” said Blanford.

Her experiences have also heavily influenced her future goals and ambitions.  Blanford shared that she intends to work within an applied industry immediately following graduation, perhaps in commercial agriculture or even at an engineering consulting firm. However, in the long run, she aspires to attain a role which will allow her to develop legislation regarding environmental and natural resource issues.

What a joy it is to be surrounded by such passionate, driven scholars in the Honors College. Not only do they make for an incredible cohort of peers, but they also serve as realistic and relatable examples of what it looks like to pursue your dreams! Everyone stands the chance to change the world and Purdue University has played a role in helping Blanford do just that.