Enhancing Education Through the Great Outdoors

April 04, 2016
New Cedar Creek Education and Outreach Coordinator Caitlin Barale Potter brings an understanding of and commitment to interactive learning experiences rooted in current scientific research. 

Caitlin Barale Potter

Caitlin Barale Potter brings considerable experience as both an educator and a field researcher to her new role. Most recently, she served as science education and outreach instructor and interim program coordinator at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. She completed both Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, and a B.S. in wildlife, fish and conservation biology at the University of California, Davis. 

How did you get your start in science education?
My family is very outdoorsy, and I spent my childhood hiking, backpacking, skiing, going to zoo camp and science camp, and generally playing outside in northern California. So when my parents told me I had to get a volunteer job at age 12 or so, I picked the local zoo as my destination. From middle school through my undergrad, I volunteered in the education and conservation department of the Oakland Zoo, leading tours of the facilities, presenting small animals to the public, and running an interactive classroom for young kids and their parents.

How did this experience impact your future career?
My experiences working with animals at the zoo and seeing animals out backpacking in the Sierra Nevadas with my family led me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in wildlife, fish and conservation biology at UC-Davis, and then to continue on to graduate degrees in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton. In graduate school, I got a chance to teach several undergraduate classes both on campus and abroad in the Kenyan savanna, and to help out at several community outreach events. Through these experiences, I rediscovered my love for science education! After my Ph.D, I took at job running middle school afterschool and summer science education at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, where I've been since fall 2014. I'm excited to take all these experiences and interests to Cedar Creek!

What do you find intriguing about working at Cedar Creek?
Cedar Creek is an incredible place because it combines high-quality scientific research and researchers with high-quality education and outreach initiatives, all in a setting that allows students to be outside (at least for part of the year!).

What unique opportunities do you see as education and outreach coordinator?
I think I am uniquely positioned to serve as a strong link between the CBS faculty doing research at Cedar Creek and the youth Cedar Creek's programs serve. I can speak both of their languages and am excited to translate technical research results into engaging programs and field trips! My goal is to get kids excited about science by connecting them directly with real research and real data - so what appeals to me most about Cedar Creek is the opportunity to use both my science skills and my education skills to get the amazing research being done at Cedar Creek out into the local communities and schools!