MAJOR SHIFT: Heather Kostick always had a love for animals. For a long time, the Delaware County native wanted to be a veterinarian. But it was at Juniata College as an undergrad that she realized the particular field wasn’t for her. She tried some new classes and eventually made the switch to wildlife conservation. “It was a huge change, but I’m so glad I did it,” she says. “I couldn’t have been happier.”
NATURE BLITZ: By the end of this year, Kostick will earn her Master of Environmental Studies degree from Penn, which is administered by the College of Liberal and Professional Studies in collaboration with the Department of Earth & Environmental Science. As part of her capstone project, she is running a series of nearby bioblitzes—three of which will take place this upcoming summer and fall.
GREAT SUCCESS: The first bioblitz Kostick organized was last spring at the Willistown Conservation Trust’s Rushton Woods Preserve in Malvern, Pa. More than 30 volunteers worked for nearly 24 hours straight, identifying 299 living species, including plants, insects, birds, and reptiles.
9 TO 5: Kostick is also a Penn employee. For a little more than a year, she has worked as an administrative assistant for the Master of Environmental Studies and Master of Science in Applied Geosciences programs. She helps with event planning, maintains the community website, talks with prospective students, and much more.
IN THE FIELD: Kostick was selected to participate in the National Geographic bioblitz held last weekend, specifically doing plant surveys at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The National Geographic bioblitz only happens once a year, and it’s a huge effort, Kostick explains.
EAGLE EYE: Kostick has a special interest in birds, and for the past four years has worked with the Willistown Conservation Trust to collect local data on them. Last November, Kostick traveled to Belize for a workshop and became certified as a bird bander by the North American Banding Council.
FUTURE PLANS: Right now, Kostick is looking into doctorate programs, and would like to eventually either become a professor or work at a nonprofit. “We’ll see where life leads me,” she says optimistically.
MORAL SUPPORT: Either way, Kostick says she’s so grateful for the education she’s receiving at Penn. “The program’s professors really want to see you succeed,” she says. “There’s so much support, and a really nice community. The coursework is really great too, preparing you for much more than just your concentration.”