2021 Incoming Grad Series: Jessica West

by Chava Nerenberg, Graduate Programming Assistant
Monday, September 13, 2021 7:30 AM

The 2021 Incoming Grad Series continues, featuring backstories and fun facts about 8 students who are part of the entering class at UCSB.

Jessica West is entering the Master's of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) program at the Bren School. Coming to UCSB from Ventura, CA, Jessica earned her Bachelor's degree from Humboldt State University in Wildlife Biology. Read on to learn more about her background, why she chose UCSB, and some surprising fun facts--including her love of bears! 



Jessica is originally from Santa Clarita, CA, but has been living in Ventura, CA for the past six years. She told us she felt fortunate that her very first job was working outdoors at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, creating and providing educational programming and caring for the non-releasable wildlife housed at the center. She then headed off to Moorpark College (where she met her husband, Dave) to attend the Exotic Animal Training and Management “EATM” program, with the intention of pursuing a zookeeping career. She worked for the next several years with various zoological facilities, primarily with non-releasable, CA native wildlife, and also performed wildlife presentations. After realizing she was also interested in field work, she pursued a BS in Wildlife Biology at Humboldt State University and has since been working various field-based and project management roles as a consultant biologist.

Jessica also worked for the National Park Service in two different parks: Yosemite National Park (managing and tracking black bears in the Summer of 2014) and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (setting up wildlife cameras to study urban bobcats from 2016 - 2019). She is currently working part-time as a Scientific Aid with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) supporting human dimensions research projects and response to human-wildlife conflicts and related issues throughout the state, and previously assisted in a black bear population study in Angeles National Forest.


Jessica told us she had been debating whether or not to attend graduate school, and knew that she wasn't particularly interested in a "typical" independent research project. She learned about the Bren School through Peter Alagona (UCSB Professor/ Environmental Historian), whom she met at one of his California Grizzly Research Network presentations. She quickly realized that Bren was the perfect fit and would provide her with support for her long-term career goal of working to prevent human-wildlife conflicts with a human-dimensions focus!

Jessica said, "I love that the Bren School's approach is to help students solve immediate environmental problems in an interdisciplinary setting, and bonus, I have loved the Santa Barbara region for years and lucked out that I already lived close by to one of the best programs in Environmental Science available!"



Jessica loves the diversity of California’s flora and fauna and has a particular interest in human-wildlife conflict resolution, urban wildlife ecology, and the human-dimensions of wildlife management. She told us she also has a soft spot for black bears and is interested in human-bear conflict resolution and management. 



Jessica is an avid hiker, camper, and general outdoor enthusiast. She says she is always up for one or multi-day outdoor adventures with her husband, dog, friends, and family. She is also interested in the craft beer scene and enjoys going to breweries, as well as cooking and eating new foods (Mexican is her favorite!). She loves driving with the windows down through mountain roads while listening to music and enjoys off-roading.

Jessica practiced falconry with a red-tailed hawk from 2008-2010 and is currently training to become a bowhunter (with the intent to hunt non-native wild pigs and turkeys in CA). She says, "I believe it is important for the hunting and non-hunting communities to have open communication to learn from one another, as both groups fundamentally want to enjoy and protect wildlife and their habitat."

Jessica also loves using iNaturalist to document wildlife and plant observations, and created/manage the "Bears of Southern California" project. Check it out!

Welcome, Jessica!

Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost and check back each day until the start of classes for the continuation of our Incoming Grad Series.