I’m Melissa: Vegan, runner, environmentalist and ecologist!
I live a crazy life, and you’re going to see it here.
How crazy you ask?
Well…I’m currently 27 and just moved back to my stomping grounds of Southern California to drop off my belongings after working in the jungles of Peru. In the past few years I’ve moved across, or half way, the country three times. I went to Australia and South America to look at /study birds. I can never seem to be in a place more than 4-6 months at a time. But it’s the nature of my job.
What is my job you ask? Where do I even start? I’ve lived in Southern California three times, Coastal Texas, Central Florida and Everglades/Miami and near Manu National Park in Peru, to put it in a nut shell. That’s all since the Summer of 2008. Oh yeah…I live out of two boxes, a suitcase and a bag of granola bars. Oh, there’s my car too. And a few airplanes!
Well, I just finished living in the jungle near Manu National Park at two different field stations called San Pedro and Wayqecha. Each one holds a different type of rainforest including a mid elevation type and high elevation called an elfin rainforest. I worked for a grad student from Tulane University in New Orleans on her PhD project tracking hummingbirds. We caught the little birds then put small radio tags on their backs to monitor them as they went to nearby flowers. It was an interesting and learning experience to say the least, and something I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do! Coming across hummingbirds work and getting it is very hard! But I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope it will lead to more hummingbird opportunities in the future back in the states!
Before that (and now actually) I lived in Southern California for two years, working for two different environmental consulting companies on wind turbine and electric energy projects. I ran around looking for nests and counting birds in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. I also had the pleasure of working in parts of the Sierra Mountains and Sequoia National Park too, which were definitely my favorite! I have also lived in Southern Florida (Miami and Everglades National Park) working as a field technician for the University of Florida and Florida Fish and Wildlife on wading birds (i.e. storks, egrets, herons, and bitterns). I’ve also worked and lived in South Central Florida in Spring and summer 2009 on the endangered Snail Kite and working with GIS (Geographic Information Systems). In Fall 2009 I was a Migratory Hawk Counter for Hawkwatch International on the South Eastern Coast of Galveston Bay, Texas. As you can tell, I love being outside and working with and for the environment! How else do you think I get an awesome tan, body scars and stories?!
My background is in the environmental field since I graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Environmental Studies and International Relations in 2007.
I’ve an avid birder as many of my friends know, because they can find me looking up in trees and the sky instead of actually paying attention to what they’re saying. I’ve participated in several projects through the Audubon Societies in California including ones involving red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, golden eagles, great horned owls, barn owls, white-tailed kites, coopers hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and many others. I’ve done several bird counts also around Christmas in order to help generate research about bird migration and the effects of global warming.
In addition, I’ve also done bird work and rainforest restoration/conservation in Northeast Queensland, Australia. I studied there for 4 months in 2006 in which I got to learn all about the different types of Australian rainforests, the outback and even live through a Category 5 Tropical Cyclone! I did a big project while I was there involving surrounding composition effects on rainforest fragments during cyclones and the effects on them. I have since been back to Australia once to go visit friends and travel and hope to go back again for fun, for work or to study at James Cook University! I also ran a 1/2 marathon the summer of 2007 in which I raised money for a rainforest restoration organization called TREAT to help them in their efforts to reconstruct rainforest corridors for animals!
Along with my avid love for the environment I am also an almost-vegan and have been since I was 17, just out of high school. I have become pretty self sufficient in cooking my own vegan meals and have even gotten my parents, family and friends to try things they never would have thought to have! As much as I love cooking real meals, I am an avid baker at heart. I had thought about going to culinary school at one point in New York but decided otherwise when I thought my joy for baking would be ruined if I was made to do it every single day. Otherwise, I love to experiment with baked goods at home and of course, have this wonderful blog to document and share it all with! I started the blog a few years ago and then stopped blogging for a while, but got back into it when I moved out of my parents and into my own place in San Diego Summer of 2008!
On top of all the grand adventures I’ve had out in the field, the environment and the kitchen, I’ve had my own struggles at home with an eating disorder since when I was 17. I developed anorexia a few months after I went off to college. I don’t want to use numbers in fear of triggering, but just know that from the time I went home to visit at Halloween to the time I went home after finals for Christmas I had dropped to a dangerously low weight and lost my period. I was in a very dangerous state at that point and was in complete denial of my disease. Having been a runner since I was 12 I never knew of the damage I could do to my body by under eating and over exercising. I was confronted the spring semester of my freshman year by a dear friend in my hall who took me to the school counselor as she threatened to call and tell my parents what I was doing. Over time and meetings I was able to come forward and talk to my parents, friends and family about my disease and start on my road to recovery. You can read more about my story at WebMD in 2007 where I was featured as a community reader, my struggles with anorexia and how running helped turn everything around.
I have had several setbacks during my journey but have been back up at a healthy weight for several years now. I have gone through several different periods of ups (like studying in the rainforest and realizing that on top of saving myself I could also be saving the environment that I love, participating in two races to raise money to help the rainforest, cater friends parties, starting a food blog, running and training for numerous 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 Marathons and my first marathon) and downs (break up with both a long term boyfriend after 7 years of being together, getting my heart broken a few times afterwards, trying to find employment and moving away from home, friends and family) but have come out running and well in the end. Everyday is a new adventure when it comes to my eating but I take them with full stride and the mindset that food is fuel but should be enjoyed and indulged all at the same time. You can read more about my current struggles with my ED on my Side Notes page just under the blog banner.