Chesapeake Insider

Jake Leizear

Jake Leizear is a GIS Fellow with the National Park Service and the Chesapeake Conservancy who has just finished a year of service with the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. His work focuses on geospatial data stewardship, furthering the goals of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, and assisting in shared GIS goals/projects.

A recent graduate from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Jake holds a bachelors of science in environmental science and a GIS certification, with a strong background and interest in human GIS application and community engagement and involvement. He recently finished a year of service with the Chesapeake Conservation Corps working to become better stewards of the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s natural resources.

Jake enjoys hiking, reading, and spending time at home with his cat, Krispy Kreme.

Jake, what inspired you to join the Chesapeake Conservation Corp?

I actually hadn’t heard of the program at all until I got an email from my university’s career center recommending people to apply to the program. It seemed like something worthy of checking out, so I put in an application. The program had such a diverse offering of opportunities, with no two Corps positions being exactly alike, and it seemed like a great chance to get a better understanding of what a career in the conservation field actually looks like from all sides.

Coming straight out of school, I had no real-world experience in the conservation field, only academic experience, and a full-time position in my field seemed really appealing. It’s been a great success in showing me what being a conservation professional actually looks like day-to-day, and how people make a living saving the world they love.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career?

I get this question a lot as a young professional just entering the field, and it’s not an easy one, for sure. However, my time in the Corps has been really helpful to beginning to find some answers to this question for me.

I have a lot of what I thought were seemingly disparate passions and interests, from social justice and advocacy to GIS and geospatial data analysis to urban greenspace and ecology. All of these threads aren’t as separate as I once thought, and actually can be combined to create the tapestry of a more holistic conservation movement.

With so much work in the future for conservationists and green professionals, and with very little of it being easy work, it’s key to start looking at how we got to where we are and where we can go in the future. We have the opportunity now to rebuild the conservation movement into something that is more encompassing, self-aware, and reflective of the world we’re trying to save. If my career can be spent working towards creating that conservation field and making positive change along the way, then I think I’ll have accomplished something to be proud of.

When you're not working, what's your favorite place to visit in the Chesapeake?

Definitely the Gwynns Falls Trail and Greenway. The trail is the largest urban forest in Baltimore City, and urban green spaces are a hugely valuable resource. The trail has a lot to offer, with its 15 miles covering multiple parks, the Carrie Murray Nature Center, and Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School, sharing space with the historic Orianda House. The Gwynns Falls also has a lot of local significance, especially since the release of the Serial podcast chronicling the high profile crime involving Leakin Park.

This combination of cultural significance with green space in an urban environment was what originally drew me to keep coming back to the Gwynns Falls, and every time I go I find new surprises. For example, the last time I was there I stumbled upon the Nature Art in the Park, “an independent artists’ endeavor to promote art that acknowledges & honors the natural world and our place in it.” Filled with unique installation pieces utilizing natural materials and themes, it was uniquely Leakin Park and incredibly reflective of the Charm City that is Baltimore. Urban forests offer urban dwellers the chance to interact with the natural environment in ways critical to encouraging environmental stewardship, literacy, and a sense of empathy for the future of the planet, and that’s why places like the Gwynns Falls Trail and Greenway are always going to be important to me.

If you had out of town guests who had never visited the Chesapeake region before, where would you take them to give them a taste of the Bay's beauty? And why?

I would probably take them down to the Annapolis City Dock. It’s a great place to get the initial experience of what it’s like to grow up close to the Bay, and how the history and environment of the Chesapeake shape its culture. As someone who grew up close to Annapolis, it's always been a great place to take out-of-town friends to share a taste of Maryland life. There’s so many things to do while also getting out near the water, it has a little bit of everything for everyone, whether you’re a history buff, want to see where legislative decisions happen, check out some beautiful sailboats, or just get an ice cream cone and watch the ducks paddle by.

Annapolis City Dock - image copyright Michael Land

Annapolis City Dock

The heart of Maryland's historic capitol city, where boating has been fundamental from the 1700's to today. Today, visitors can watch sailboat races in the harbor and understand why Annapolis is America's Sailing Capital.

Annapolis, MD

Gwynns Falls Trail and Greenway

Gwynns Falls Trail and Greenway

Explore a hiking and biking trail through a Baltimore stream valley making its way to the Chesapeake Bay.

Baltimore, MD

Jody Couser

Jody is the director of communications with the Chesapeake Conservancy. She has a public relations background and served as spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County, MD. 

November 20, 2017

Main image: Jake Leizear is a GIS Fellow with the National Parks Service and the Chesapeake Conservancy who has just finished a year of service with the Chesapeake Conservation Corps.
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