DEP Women in STEM: Janice Duquesnel

Name: Janice Duquesnel
Division/Title: Division of Recreation and Parks, Florida Park Service/Biological Scientist II
How long have you been with DEP: I have been working with DEP/ Florida Park Service for 22 years
Education/Background: I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Oceanography from The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., which included summer courses at a field station at Wallops Island, Virginia.
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM? My passion for the marine environment began at a young age and I always knew that I wanted to work in that field. I enjoyed math and science in school, and found a strong connection with any classes related to marine biology and ecology. As I furthered my education, my passion only increased. When I moved to the Florida Keys, I was overwhelmed by the natural beauty, and expanded my interests to include studying the terrestrial ecosystems.
What profession did you think you would be when you were growing up? I wanted to be a marine biologist, and from an early age, was interested in studying all aspects of the ocean environment. I feel fortunate that I never doubted that career path, either through my early education, or throughout my time in the University.
What excites you about your work at DEP? As a biologist in the Florida Keys my responsibilities include working in both the marine and terrestrial environments. Not only does my job include a variety of responsibilities, but I have the privilege of working in unique ecosystems including coral reefs, seagrass beds, and tropical hardwood hammocks. The marine and terrestrial ecosystems are closely connected so protecting the upland habitats has a positive impact on the submerged resources. Through my conservation work with imperiled species, I have been honored to work with researchers from a variety of organizations, and that has made me a better biologist and a better scientist.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why? My favorite project is really a tie between the mahogany mistletoe (Phoradendron rubrum) augmentation project, and seagrass restoration in Lignumvitae. Mahogany mistletoe is a rare species that was historically found in a few disjunct populations in Key Largo. Very little was known about this species before we started with our conservation work in 1998, as it has always been considered rare in the Florida Keys. When a new population was discovered in 1998, I worked with a colleague to establish a conservation program for this species. One of the outcomes was an outplanting project to spread new seeds on host trees within the historic distribution in Key Largo. That aspect of the project became successful with the 2002 outplanting when seeds germinated on host mahogany trees. Since that time, the original population died, so all that remains are those individuals that I have outplanted over the years, as well as recruits that have established naturally from the outplanted individuals. In addition to achieving the goal of establishing a self-sustaining population, we have learned a great deal about this species including the life history, life expectancy, and its survival strategies, and published our long-term data in The Society for Ecological Restoration in January 2017.
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park manages several hundred acres of upland habitat as well as 10,000 acres of submerged land. Seagrass beds in Florida and particularly in the Florida Keys, are subject to damage from vessel grounding and vessel scarring from boat propellers. Seagrass are a critical ecosystem that directly affects the health of other submerged resources, most notably, coral reef habitat. Since 2005, we have been conducting seagrass restoration within the park, to restore areas that have been damaged due to vessel impacts. To date we have forty-four sites that have had some level of restoration, and have spent over one million dollars on this effort. So far we have achieved the restoration goal at half of our restoration sites.
What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? The Trimble GPS and its associated ArcGIS software provide me with a wide range of useful applications for my job, including tracking species abundance and distribution over the long-term.
Why is it important to get more students, including females, interested in STEM? It is critical to get more people to develop an interest in science and technology in order to ensure the long-term preservation of the environment, achieve advancements in technology, and obtain a better understanding of the biological mechanisms that move progress forward. Engaging more females to pursue a career in the sciences will open up opportunities for developing a diverse point of view, which empowers everyone to new ideas.
What is your best advice for girls interested in science? I think the most important think to consider is to follow a path based on what interests you. Don’t let current barriers stop you from pursuing a dream. Broaden your knowledge and experience base by taking advantage of opportunities to volunteer or intern with agencies or non-profits that emphasize your interests. Education is important, but in the field training offers so much by offering opportunities for learning beyond the classroom, giving opportunities for real-life experiences with those already in the science or engineering field.
I love science/engineering/technology because…Science helps us to understand the world around us. The intricacies of the food web, plant/animal relationships, and humans’ role in the environment are all compelling issues that are relevant to a meaningful life. There are still so many mysteries to explore and so much that we need to comprehend in order to protect and preserve our planet.
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