Noel Fie, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo


Noel Fie wearing winter clothes smiling in front of a field of snow

Noel is currently halfway through her graduate program at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, studying forestry sciences with an emphasis in forest hydrology. She completed an undergraduate degree in 2013 majoring in environmental management and protection with a concentration in hydrology, also at Cal Poly. While an undergraduate, Noel worked as a geographic information system technician for the City of San Luis Obispo.

Following graduation, Noel worked the next two years as a biologist for a consulting firm in the San Luis Obispo area. Noel realized she had a passion for restoration and environmental management of wetlands and decided to go back to school for a graduate program.

As often happens, a professor took note of a bright student that shows potential to think critically. Dr. Chris Surfleet (Cal Poly, SLO) asked Noel if she would be interested in working on an ARI-funded project. Fire suppression and climate change had led to an abundance of conifers in historic mountain meadows in California. Dr. Sufleet hypothesized that removing conifers from these areas would help restore the health and sustainability of the meadows through improving groundwater availability. The project had all the elements she sought: hydrology, wetland restoration and environmental management. She was immediately interested and suggested that if she took the research position she could incorporate an element of plant restoration as part of the post-conifer removal assessment since this information is largely lacking from the scientific literature.

Apart from learning how to operate scientific instruments, such as soil moisture sensors, data loggers, or the ten-foot-high weather station fitted with a snow depth sensor, she has also gained confidence in her role as a scientist. Noel has generated a lot of data from her project and by working with this data she developed a degree of patience and attention to detail. Moreover, she developed a deeper curiosity and appreciation for the natural environment and learned that doing good for the environment can be both very fun and very difficult at the same time. Noel stated that research ability does not come easily but it is very rewarding.

Noel continues to work on the ARI-funded research project as a full-time research assistant and hopes to continue with a career in hydrology or ecology after she graduates.