Mariah McIntosh: The Problem-Solver

Mariah McIntosh

Mariah McIntosh almost didn’t apply for a Udall Scholarship. She was happy to focus on her Goldwater Scholarship application. But, Laure Pengally-Drake, her advisor at the time, convinced her to throw her hat in. And it paid off: Mariah won a Udall, and received an Honorable Mention for the Goldwater. Besides offering money toward her tuition and other expenses, the Udall brought unanticipated rewards, as well. All of the scholarship recipients participated in a case-study simulation in Tucson this summer having to do with environmental conflict resolution and water rights in the West. Mariah found herself passionately taking part in the process of conflict resolution. She realized that, “I love to be in intense situation[s] and figure out how to solve problems.”

This isn’t surprising. As an Ecology major and Climate Change Studies minor, the senior from Corvallis, Oregon is constantly thinking about the needs of the world around her, and how best to meet them. “I need to be problem-solving,” she says. “I care a lot about the natural world and the environment. And,” she adds, “we have a plethora of issues that we need to address.” She loves the challenge of figuring out answers to questions that have not yet been asked, and has spent the past three years working with two faculty members on an independent research project that  looks at the way that the yellow monkey flower associates with different fungal communities in order to assess how plant communities are structured. Mariah says, “This experience has just really given me the experience to know what it means to be a researcher, to know what it means to do science.”

“Do science.” That phrase might seem odd to someone outside of the discipline, but to Mariah, for whom Ecology has always seemed “intuitive and logical,” doing science is both a passion and a pastime. When she’s not in the lab, she is thinking about ways to apply what she’s learning to the real world around her. And, after graduate school, she hopes to do just that, bridging the gap between fieldwork and politics. Mariah says, “I feel like right now there’s sort of this gap between science and how we’re managing land and interacting with the landscape.” It won’t be easy, she knows; people can be resistant to change, even if the goal is the survival of a species. But, as she says, “I don’t think that something being really difficult is a good reason not to do it.”