Mackenzie Morris

mackenzie at a magestic mountain overlookMackenzie Morris spends most of her time outdoors observing the natural world around her; this practice brings her a “sense of peace and belonging”. As she continues to help protect the environment, she actively works to educate the public about natural history. While on hikes with friends and family she instinctively takes on the role of a nature guide by encouraging them to observe their surroundings more closely. She continuously asks others “what they notice and wonder about” with the goal of sharing the knowledge she has gained through time and assisting them to strengthen their naturalist skills.

Mackenzie’s appreciation of natural history grew immensely throughout her time at UCSC. She recently graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies with Highest Department Honors. While taking part in the Natural History Field Quarter her passion for local biodiversity flourished and she began to truly understand her role as a naturalist. Her dedication to educating others led her to support the implementation of the Field Inquiry Nature Explorations (FINE). The purpose of the project was to facilitate hands-on, outdoor activities for 1st-year undergraduates to strengthen their field inquiry skills; as well as their connection with the environment, its inhabitants, and their peers by introducing them to nature observations and exploration skills. Mackenzie was one of two Lead Field Inquiry Mentors who worked to coordinate the program. She collaborated with Elena Valencia to develop an extensive manual on how to run and expand the program into the future by providing curriculum and activity resources. With access to scheduling, internship, and training information, she helped provide future program coordinators with the tools for understanding program logistics enabling them to work more effectively.

When it comes to improving the naturalist community, Mackenzie feels strongly that it needs more LGBTQ+ folks and people of color leading natural history experiences. While she has been fortunate to have many great mentors, she acknowledges that most have been white and believes “some students need instructors that represent who they are, and can relate to, to really get involved with the educational opportunities available.” She hopes to help provide a more comfortable and diverse environment for future students.

Naturalizing will always be a part of Mackenzie’s life. She is applying her skills while working for the Marin Municipal Water District as an Engineering Aid field Pipe Locator Intern. As a Community-Oriented environmentalist she will continue to share her love for the outdoors with others as often as she can. She aims to always continue strengthening her connection and commitment with the natural world