At Work In The Forest

Duke Forest manager coordinates research, outreach and outdoor teaching

Sara Childs at the Savica River near Lake Bohinj, Slovenia during her honeymoon. Photo courtesy of Sarah Childs.

Name: Sara Childs

Position: Duke Forest Program Director

Years at Duke: 1

What I do at Duke: My first responsibility is to facilitate and coordinate the teaching and research activities at Duke Forest. That is the forest's mission - to serve the Duke community and surrounding universities as a teaching and research resource. I also maintain and update all the Forest's spatial data and create maps for research, teaching and management purposes. And I do a lot of education and outreach activities. I love that I get to teach not only about the value of the Duke Forest, but also about the value of the environment in general.

Where I work: My office is in the North Building, on Research Drive. But the Forest also has a maintenance shop off Lemur Lane, so I'm often out there or out in the Forest.

How I got my job: I did my Master of Environmental Management at Nicholas and graduated in 2008. I was just finishing a post-graduate fellowship in the Sandhills region of North Carolina when the Career Services folks at Nicholas let me know this job was coming open. It is exactly the diverse, bit of everything position in natural resources that I was looking for.

When I am not at work I like to: Hone my naturalist skills, such as tree and flower identification. And my husband and I bought our first house in December, so there is a lot of yardwork, painting, and putting things up on the wall still going on.

To start a conversation with me, someone should ask about: The environment and why it should be a priority in our everyday lives and why it matters in all the big discussions that are going on in the world right now.

My first paid job: Selling sports equipment at a retail shop in Burlington, Mass., near where I grew up. It was a family tradition; my two older sisters had also worked there.

A memorable moment for me at Duke: The experience of working with student assistants. These students are eager, efficient and have great ideas. This year, one student developed and implemented a monitoring program for the natural heritage areas in the forest and planned for better trail management in these sensitive areas. Another student produced new educational content and led a history tour. My third student has produced a bunch of GIS maps that we'll be using to plan our next season of deer management. 

If I could have one superpower it would be: Being able to zap trash and pollution, especially along NC Highway 751.

The book I just finished: "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson. It is based on a true story about the World Fair in Chicago in 1893 and a mass murderer who took advantage of the crowds coming to the World Fair.

Something people don't know about me: That I love to dance. Hip hop, freestyle, anything. Wherever the opportunity arises, I like to move to music.

Read about other Blue Devils of the Week in our archives.