My name is Daiva Gylys, I was born in Chicago but have lived most of my life in Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes it is a real place and no there is not a zoo). I graduated from the University of Michigan in May 2011 with a duel degree in Environmental Science and Socio-Cultural Anthropology, as well as a minor in Peace and Social Justice Studies…I have always had the problem of having a wide range of interests, which has served to be super difficult for me in choosing a career path! I think it finally hit me during a study abroad program I did in Costa Rica that focused on resource management and sustainable development. Somewhere between surveying coral reef health, exploring the ecology of coffee plantations, and interacting with community members of eco-tourism cooperatives I found my calling! Performing hands-on work in the field is my haven and working with people is my motivator.
This realization led me to finding the SCA last summer leading a community crew in Detroit where we constructed and maintained a mountain bike trail in Rouge Park. I continued my journey with the organization by moving back to Chicago and working as a crew leader for the year-round community program as well as for the summer program. I have come to learn and love the conservation opportunities that exist in the city.
In Chicago it’s almost too easy to get closed off in the whirlwind of tall buildings, non-stop traffic, and the busy mentality of city folk who seem to always walk with a mission and never stop to look around. In my eyes, the SCA attempts to break the barriers of this lifestyle by bringing vibrant pocket parks to vacant lots, encouraging youth to become involved in their communities by exploring their green spaces, and informing others on what we can do to preserve our protected lands surrounding the city. From educational nature centers, vibrant prairies, recreational trails, and wildlife viewing, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) is truly a gem that in my opinion city dwellers don’t venture into enough!
I feel extremely lucky to work for the SCA and Friends of the Forest Preserves. Our team has the luxury to work from site to site within the FPDCC, explore new areas every week, and meet site stewards and new volunteers all of the time. I also get to boast that my office is a woodland, my desk is the earth, and my office supplies consist of drip torches, back-pack sprayers, loppers, and pulaskis. I wouldn’t have it any other way!