Rachel Kippin

rachel with bags on a beachRachel sees a naturalist as an educator that is seeking to share the non-human world with humans. Rachel is originally from Hawaii but is now the Executive Director of O’Neil Odyssey working towards expanding marine biology education and outreach in Southern Santa Cruz County. One of Rachel’s most memorable naturalist moments when she got to see first graders run up the dune shores for the first time. Seeing the children see it for the first time gave her a reminder that as an adult, we often take many things I take for granted.

In Santa Cruz Rachel has a group of women friends who worked for various non-profits in Santa Cruz County. They started as naturalist around similar times, moved up in careers paths together and went through similar issues where they helped each other get through. Rachel sees that Santa Cruz is a diverse county, but that diversity within the county is not reflected in our environmental community. Rachel believes that this will continue unless pay scales are adjusted to reflect the cost of living. Often in order to obtain entry level positions, a person must volunteer for some time, which further imbalances who can and cannot afford to get into the naturalist field.

Rachel believes there is a lot of genuine movement in this community to make more diverse representation, but has noticed moving into a position with more power, there are very clear walls and structures that exist beyond our good intention. Rachel thinks we could make a more diverse naturalist community by critically examining pay rates. If you are an immigrant family, often time your family wants you to get a high paying job, so you are going to put in all these years at school for a degree. The naturalist community can also feel exclusive as many feels like you need Patagonia gear, everyone will be super fit and backpack for five days without a second thought. Rachel herself has had people look at her and her physical appearance and be surprised when they learn how much I time I spend in nature or on the ocean.