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Gayle Schmidt

Australia Fall ’02

As manager of public programs at The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, Gayle Schmidt Australia Fall ’02 works to connect people and nature. Through special events and programs, community members have fun while developing an appreciation for the natural world.

It takes an active and educated public to bring about environmental change, a lesson that Gayle learned at The School for Field Studies in North Queensland, Australia. "My directed research project focused on gauging community interest in rainforest restoration projects. I saw the importance of learning how to re-plant and re-populate a rainforest plot, but I also realized that projects can't go far without the collective support and concern of others."

Gayle fosters this community support in her current work through Botanical Garden events, such as food festivals and garden tours, and through programs like Cafe Scientifique, where visitors can interact with scientists in a relaxed setting over a cup of coffee. "I hope the conversations show that science doesn't have to be an unreachable subject," she said.

She brings people and plants together by assisting with exhibits like The Edible Garden, which highlights kitchen gardens and locally grown food. "It is surprising how fast we have lost awareness of where our food comes from, what it looks like in the dirt, and what to do with it after we get it home. We hope to mitigate some of that disconnect through beautiful plant displays, extensive interpretation in various media, and daily cooking programs."

Gayle remarked that at SFS Australia, she had the opportunity to be "surrounded by a concentration of dedicated and passionate students who wanted to learn and do some good for our environment." It was a great chance to learn how to work as a team and come together to tackle important problems, she said. Now, to continue building her conservation network, Gayle volunteers for The Nature Conservancy's Young Professionals group. "We recently had our annual benefit and brought together new faces motivated by a good cause or their good friends. Collectively, we doubled the amount of money that we raised last year in support of on-the-ground conservation projects. More importantly, we garnered new members, a growing base of people concerned about nature in its present state that can together be effective in their actions."