Christina Parise came to Colorado State University with the goal of becoming a veterinarian, even working through school and summers as a veterinary technician. But two weeks in Baja California Sur, Mexico, at the university’s Todos Santos Center, changed her direction.
“I was in the first class that went over Winter Break in 2015,” Parise said. “The campus wasn’t built yet, so we camped on an island and studied marine life. We counted sea turtle eggs, and helped some of the last ones to hatch make it to the water. We knew they mostly wouldn’t survive, but I like to think that some of them made it a little longer because of me.”
That experience ignited her passion for field research. She volunteered to participate in another turtle study, this one on the plains outside Greeley for the Colorado Reptile Humane Society, that used GPS to track how far box turtles travel.
“You wouldn’t think it, but they can go a couple of miles in about three days,” she said.
Follow your interests
Parise, a first-generation college student from Long Beach, California, said she likes taking classes that interest her, even if they didn’t count for her zoology major. That’s how she wound up in a wildlife disease ecology class taught by Kate Huyvaert who, with Paul Dougherty, led the first Todos Santos class.
That, in turn, led Parise to not only add a minor in Fish and Wildlife Conservation Biology but to apply to the microbiology master’s program at CSU with a new goal: to use immunology to help tackle the challenges of wildlife disease. She starts the program in the fall, and plans to continue on to her Ph.D. “I love Fort Collins, and CSU, and want to stay,” she said.
“Christina is a really fantastic student,” said Huyvaert, associate professor of FWCB in Warner College of Natural Resources. “She is naturally curious, and a go-getter. She is one of those students who, when you look out over the class, you know she is with you and hears what you are saying.”
Parise served in the President’s Leadership Program in her freshman year, and her advice to first-year students is to try to make as many friends as possible. “But keep on top of deadlines and schoolwork,” she added. “That’s why you’re here.”