Pinkie Young is The Watershed Project’s (TWP) new Youth Field Crew Manager, who will hire and mentor a set of young paid interns (ages 17-24). TWP is honored and excited to have Pinkie join and grow our TWP team! Below, in a conversation with Dan Kirk, Pinkie shares a little bit about her passions and challenges working in the environmental field, her interests and hobbies and a Two Truths and a Lie game that readers can participate in, among other exciting things.
Dan: What watershed do you live in and why is it special to you?
Pinkie: I live in the Baxter Creek watershed, so South Richmond. It’s special to me because it’s the place where I grew. I was born in Berkeley and raised in South Richmond all my life, so the Coronado district is where I grew up and where my family still lives, so it’s a special place. It’s interesting because the watershed is not super clear in that area just because it’s just so industrialized so that’s an interesting thing for me to think about, just that lack of a clear watershed that exists in that area coming into this position.
Dan: Yes, so true. There are historic watersheds maps where you can see all the historic geological features and above ground waterways and streams and often the historic watersheds were named after those above ground bodies of water. Now, in highly industrialized areas, all the water may be piped underground, making it hard to understand what or know where certain watersheds are.
Dan: Can you share a little bit about the path that brought you to TWP?
Pinkie: So I studied geology with a focus of environmental science down in Southern California. Southern California is an awesome place to learn about geology because there is so much going on there, and just California just in general -there’s a lot of things going on in terms of structural geology and hydrology and geobiology. My focus was in igneous petrology, so that’s the study of rocks and the rocks that were formed underground through magma. So if we’re thinking about places like Yosemite that have these huge batholiths, those are magma deposited and cooled and brought up to the surface of the earth and then eroded. So I got my chops in doing microscopy through doing igneous petrology, which is looking at very very thin pieces of rock through a microscope.
Dan: Wow, cool.
Pinkie: It’s all very interesting and nothing that I was exposed to at all growing up, my mom was a business lady and my dad worked for the city, so they weren’t super STEM people, but being able to study STEM was really transitional for me and it also made me realize that I do love field work and I love being outside. I love geo, I could talk about rocks forever.
After college I figured I should be a professional geologist, so I found a job at a very small environmental remediation company in Southern California. It was me and two other guys and that was the entire company, so it was very very small. And we mostly did things that had to do with environmental engineering and installing water monitoring wells and underground storage tank removal. It was interesting work but a little bit dry coming from such awesome field trips and mapping and all the academia side of geology. At the time, I did not appreciate it, now I look back and think about how that stuff was pretty cool.
The two other people I worked with were two older white dudes and the majority of people I worked with in the field were all men and mostly white, except some people in certain positions, like drillers, who were people of color. There was definitely a hierarchy within that and I got really sick of it really quickly, and I was there for two years! I felt so stifled there because the culture there was so different from what I was used to, and the adjustment without having anyone with me was very difficult. So I decided when I was working in environmental remediation that something’s gotta give, and I understand when people say “you gotta be there to trailblaze, you gotta be the first”, right? But after being there for a while I figured out that there needs to be more structure and more of a push to get different types of people in the environmental field. It can’t just be me being inspirational, there needs to be real work and some real digging that goes into that. So I decided that STEM education is going to be the best bet for that, the opportunity to give kids science agency and their own view of what science is so that they can really engage with it.
So I ended up then working for the Lawrence Hall of Science in their outreach department, doing a lot of museum education, talking to young kids about what they find interesting about their observations, and I found a lot of joy out of that work. So I’m really excited to be able to transition to another form of reaching my goal of increasing diversity in STEM and coming into this position and bringing in my field experience and education experience.
Dan: Yes, so true. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences that brought you here.
Dan: As the new Youth Field Crew Manager, what excites you about working with youth and young adults?
It wasn’t too long ago that I was a young adult myself, so I think having that knowledge of what is required is really inspiring, like I wish that when I graduated from college at the age of 23 that I had somebody available to tell me what I can expect, this is how you can prepare yourself for this kind of work.
I was afforded a lot of opportunities growing up, and I don’t take that lightly, but a lot of the folks in West County and in Oakland don’t have that opportunity at all, so bringing an opportunity like that to them is something that is really exciting for me.
Two Truths and a Lie! – Guess Pinkie’s lie – Pinkie’s lie is shared at the end of this article.
- Love cookies and cream ice cream
- Can’t stand the taste of cilantro, you know that soapy taste in your mouth? Yeah I can’t handle that it’s gross.
- I’m the youngest of 5, and I have 4 older brothers.
Dan: Mmm this is tough, my guess is that the siblings one is a lie!
See Pinkie’s response at the bottom of the article.
Dan: What brings you joy?
Pinkie: The main one is hobbies. I have a lot of hobbies – I love working with my hands and doing crafts. And I love to knit, I knit friends sweaters and dogs sweaters. I also love biking, me and my partner bike a lot and that’s been a really huge positive in our lives. My partner sold his car and now he only bikes, so we made a pretty big transition, especially during the pandemic cycling a lot. We love going around and seeing the sites and the “hidden infrastructure”, like bike lanes and places that aren’t available for cars but are for humans, you know?
Two Truths and Lie Answer:
Mmhmm I am the baby girl of 4 other siblings. The lie is that I love cilantro, cilantro is delicious! I feel bad for people who can’t eat cilantro.