HomeEducationBoreas Leadership ProgramStudent Spotlight – Clare Kazanski

Student Spotlight – Clare Kazanski

Clare Kazanski is a 3rd year PhD student in the department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences. Clare served on the 2012/13 Boreas Student Advisory Board. Before graduate school Clare worked in Washington, DC as a policy analyst for Environmental Defense Fund’s National Climate Campaign, where she worked with Congressional legislative staff and various stakeholder groups to promote domestic climate change legislation. She holds a B.A. in biology from Carleton College. In addition to her love of ecology and science communication, Clare is an avid ultimate frisbee player, garden tinkerer, and cook.

Boreas: What do you study here at the University of Minnesota?

Clare: I study how grasslands respond to climate change and whether plants and soils might help to mitigate or reinforce those changes. In particular, I study how interactions between prairie plants and their mycorrhizae affect carbon storage in soils. Mycorrhizae are soil fungi that partner with plants; in exchange for carbon, or energy, mycorrhizae deliver nutrients to plants. I am interested in understanding the various and interacting ways this partnership might affect how much carbon soils store under future levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen deposition.

Boreas: What do you dream of doing beyond grad school? How has Boreas helped?

Clare: I really enjoy the creative and collaborative nature of science, but am also driven to make connections between ecology and society. My dream job would allow me to simultaneously pursue both of these interests — ideally with one foot in academia and one foot in the translation and communication of science into more relevant and applicable forms for the public. One great part of science is that it runs on a currency of curiosity and creativity. I want to share this process of doing science broadly; to demystify the field for students with less experience in research and to revive a public appreciation and respect for science.

Boreas gives me a chance to learn and practice skills with fellow students from various disciplines.I took the “talking to the media” course and got my butt kicked. It was a great experience and really eye-opening to hear first-hand from reporters and journalists about what makes a story stick. I often refer back to the ideas and feedback from that workshop as I think of how to best communicate my research to various audiences.

Boreas: What connections have you made with other students, speakers or guests through Boreas?

Clare: More than any specific connection, Boreas has provided a second home of sorts, a place to engage with a broad array of students and think about big issues and ideas.

Boreas: How have you implemented skills from Boreas in your graduate work and beyond?

Clare: The skills I’ve learned in Boreas have been great for communicating what I do and what motivates me. With a new eye towards communication, daily activities have become opportunities to practice honing those skills — be it talking with interns at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, writing grant proposals, or updating friends and family on what I’ve been up to.

Boreas: What kinds of leaders do you think the world needs to meet 21st century environmental and social challenges?

Clare: I think we need big-picture thinkers who are creative and able to collaborate with people from different perspectives. I think being deeply skilled in one area but with the ability to work and communicate across disciplines is essential. We need good listeners who can synthesize complex issues and concepts and find the common threads across issues. People who are good to work with and who invest in others. I think Boreas is working to help us develop a lot of these skills that, I think, come through collaborating with others in meaningful ways.

Boreas: If you were a superhero, which power would you have?

Clare: As a field ecologist and lover of the north woods, I’d have to choose immunity to mosquitos, ticks and flies.

Director of Boreas


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