College course, site visit opened door to career
A lifelong love of nature and the outdoors led Christine Wentzel down a path to her 22-year career as an environmental scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District.
“I became interested in my field when I took ecology in college,” says Wentzel, who works in the district’s Jacksonville Service Center. “Getting the opportunity to be outside and work with a variety of people served as my inspiration. Every day is a new challenge, and helping other people meet their goals while protecting our natural resources seems a great way to spend the day!”
Wentzel was working for an environmental consulting firm when she met a district staff member at a site visit. She started asking questions about the district and learned that a position was open, which she immediately applied for.
More than two decades later, she still enjoys reviewing project sites and working with other biologists and engineers to finetune plans to restore areas to their historic habitats and enhance wildlife potential.
On a daily basis, Wentzel reviews Statewide Environmental Resource Permit (SWERP) applications for a variety of development types and mitigation banks for compliance with state statutes.
Wentzel’s typical day may include meeting with consultants on a project site to review onsite habitats and delineate wetlands, review/assess proposed wetland impacts relative to the development plans, review proposed mitigation plans and coordinate with consultants to ensure they provide the information necessary to meet the state’s environmental protection rules. Other days, she may review finished projects for compliance with their district-issued permits, help consultants and the public obtain information about a project, or meet with applicant teams to discuss potential projects.
“Some of my best days are associated with review of new project sites that are proposed as mitigation banks, or review of mitigation banks that have been implemented and are currently being managed per the approved plans,” she says. “My work is important because implementation of the state’s statutes helps ensure that our natural resources will be maintained and hopefully enhanced for generations to come.”
Wentzel, the mom of two teenage boys, has simple advice for girls and women interested in working in science, technology, engineering or mathematics: “Go for it!”
“There are so many opportunities in the STEM fields,” she says. “Be sure to find one you look forward to doing each day and that challenges you each day. That way, you’ll be excited to go to work and will be constantly learning and growing!”