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Kristi Collom's Employee Profile

International Business and Development Representative

Kristi is a semi-aquatic mammal native to NYC with a versatile background in research, expeditionary learning, nonprofit development, youth empowerment, and marine mammal espionage.

At City University of New York, she pursued a graduate degree in Animal Behavior and Conservation culminating in the first assessment of Bottlenose dolphins in the New York Bight working with her nonprofit, Gotham Whale.  Her thesis entitled “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn: Coastal bottlenose dolphin migration and presence in the New York Bight” will be her first publication as lead author, she has several published peer-reviewed articles  on marine mammal behavioral ecology, population dynamics, conservation, and bioacoustics with collaborators in Central America. Working with coastal communities and areas of limited bandwidth is what inspired her to work in student travel and youth empowerment initiatives.

At Rustic Pathways, she has taken on the role of International Business and Development Representative for Student Travel and leads outreach efforts as the Northeast Regional Manager – supporting and encouraging students to explore other walks of life and garner insight for how they want to make a difference in the world.

How did you first go about getting a global perspective?

Truthfully – through a microscope. Both literally and figuratively – watching a water bear (also known as a tardigrade) and imagining their world at a scale I could never truly experience is how I broadened my global (and human) perspective.

This is a microscopic creature that is found everywhere on planet Earth, can go years without food or water, withstand freezing and scalding temperatures and endure the blistering radiation and microgravity in the vacuum of outer space.

There is so much we do not know about the world and at the very least, I hope to experience every continent – and spend everyday exploring something, somewhere new – even in my own habitat.

As a biologist with a graduate degree in wildlife conservation, espionage is how I experience the world. Observing, eavesdropping, and investigating the sight, sound, smell, and synergy of the world Step outside your comfort zone, take a birds eye view and walk in someone else’s shoes.

For me, a global perspective comes from adaptations – adjusting to a new point of view, a new challenge, unfamiliar territories, and physical distinctions of people, places, and purpose across the planet. If I could, I would follow the dolphins.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

What is most fulfilling about working with this league of adventurers is the collective mindset that we are all looking to inspire others to explore, make a positive impact on the world and feel empowered and encouraged to do so.

Our conservation programs make valuable contributions to the world where the wild things are. ← Over the years, I’ve collaborated on research that aims to do just that.

“I study these creatures, they are my teachers” – Charles Bukowski

Why do you view travel as an essential part of every education?

When we are gone, our stories, artifacts, glyphs, and bones (literal and figurative) will represent how we impacted the world and what we contributed to the future. Our programs empower students to explore a global perspective where those priorities are woven into everyday life. These experiences fuel the aspirations that inevitably change the core model of who you are – for the better.

It’s an eye-opening experience I wish I’d had much earlier in life. YOLO. I’m glad I will be able to guide the future changemakers of tomorrow along these Rustic Pathways.

“It is a curious (person) looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

What have your own international travels entailed?

I’m envious of students that have these opportunities to travel early on in life and make a positive impact on lives and communities around the world through adventures abroad. I’ve traveled to a dozen states, lived aboard ships and sailboats in the North Atlantic and Caribbean, explored two continents, and ten countries.

My first experience abroad was meant to be transformative and empowering – to celebrate life when facing death as a way to look forward and appreciate the time we have. My mother died early in my adulthood and left prescriptive measures for me to travel for one month after her passing – to celebrate the life she gave me and look forward without any regrets. I brought her ashes with me and traveled to two continents – entering Marseille, France and departing from Cairo, Egypt.

I wanted to visit the majestic seas and coastal communities that Jacques Cousteau explored, see the site where his underwater basecamps were launched – the Conshelf Project was inspiring – imagining aquanuts living underwater in a tank of oxygen and helium to fully immerse themselves in the ways of life beneath the surface. In the lavender fields of Sault, France and upon diving in the Red Sea – I scattered her ashes so she would follow me on every adventure.

Travel is a celebration of life and awindow into another wave of the world. It was a soul-crushing experience to see how vastly different the rest of the world was from my point of view and it inspired me to pursue research in remote parts of the world that we didn’t know much about. That is where student travel captivated me and motivated me to dedicate every day to achieving a growing global perspective – the ethos of all Rustic Pathwalians. I’ll never stop exploring.

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go . . . If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” – T.S. Eliot

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

What we do at Rustic Pathways matters – for the future, for you, and certainly for me. I am a hard-boiled wonderland optimist that is fueled by creativity, compassion, progress, and impact.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some of the coolest jobs in my life from being a zookeeper at Central Park Zoo to curating live exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History and leading conservation programs with National Geographic.

To #gorustic is to be curious and empowered – the most fulfilling aspect of my job is feeling part of a collective that never stops exploring and prioritizes a shared humanity where we encourage agency, admiration, altruism and allegiance to our planet. There is no Plan B.

“The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids. They ask questions and have a sense of wonder and curiosity. Who, what, where, why, when and how? They never stop asking questions and I never stop asking questions.” – Sylvia Earle

Kristi is currently living in Brooklyn with her best friend “a floofy VIP-cat named Minx”.

If you’re local – drop her a line so she can visit your school this year! Her adventures in science, sea, and student empowerment can be found here:  http://linktr.ee/kristisea

Read more about the Rustic Pathways teamLearn about Rustic Pathways programs.