Meet Casandra Rauser: Research Development Officer and BiologistAugust 14, 2009
For Casandra Rauser, 2004–05 American Fellow, life is all about the adventure. In 1996, after her second year at a small liberal arts college in Minnesota, she went on a class trip to Costa Rica to study sustainable ecotourism. At the end of the trip, she waved goodbye to her classmates instead of the country. Although Casandra had always been interested in science, the trip tapped into her desire to explore the field more. She left her school in Minnesota and headed to the University of Arizona, which offered a stronger science program and more research opportunities, to complete her undergraduate degree.
After earning her bachelor’s of science degree, Casandra moved to California to do doctoral research in evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine. The AAUW fellowship allowed her to focus on her research and “eased the pain of grad school,” confessed Casandra. After defending her dissertation, Casandra headed back to Costa Rica for four years.
In the international village of Tamarindo, Casandra worked in a surf shop and a preschool before landing a position with a local nature preserve. Although not directly related to evolutionary biology, these first jobs taught her invaluable life skills. While working at the conservancy, Casandra and a colleague developed an environmental education program for the local Costa Rican schools.
Casandra is most proud of the recycling program she helped to establish in Tamarindo. Each month the program set up a recycling center on the beach in the village and collected about a ton of materials. “I almost couldn’t leave Costa Rica because of recycling,” said Casandra. “To start a project and see it through to some level of success, especially a project that was good for the environment and for the society, was very rewarding.”
One key to the success of the recycling project was that it enlisted the help of local sponsors. An environmentally conscious surf group agreed to host a beach cleanup event each recycling day. Another group held a fashion show to raise awareness about recycling in a culture where throwing trash around is commonplace. What started out as a small idea turned into a large event with two international fashion designers, professional models, and far-flung press coverage.
These days, Casandra is back at the University of California working as a research development officer, a position in which she is able to apply many skills she learned through her work in Costa Rica. “Costa Rica was a fantastic growing experience. Now I’m in the perfect place. I love my job!”