Student worker Daren Jones got into his degree field “completely by accident.”
The third of three stories about KGS student workers who are graduating from UK
KGS student worker Daren Jones of Georgetown, Ky., has earned a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental science from UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, with a focus on earth systems science and geospatial analysis.
He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in 2011 when he began his college career at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College. So how did he get into his degree field? “It was completely by accident,” he says with a smile. “I was part of the BCTCblue+ program, which lets BCTC students take UK courses, and I needed to take a random three-credit UK class. My academic advisor found this class called GEO 309, which was an introduction to GIS … and I found that I was particularly good at it.”
When he transferred to UK, he chose the natural resources degree. Because he liked the mapping aspect of the degree, he considered geology to be a natural fit as a minor.
He also co-wrote a book. He, a friend from Georgetown, and two other students put together “Project Stormwater,” an interdisciplinary book of lesson plans and activities for K-12 environmental educators, as part of their capstone project. Beginning in January of this year, they worked on the project with Fayette County Public Schools, UK extension offices, and Bluegrass GreenSource, a central Kentucky nonprofit environment education group. “We developed all the lessons so that anything an average teacher would need would be there in the classroom,” Jones explains. “We didn’t expect it to end up as big as it is. We were expecting two dozen lessons, stapled together and turned in.” Instead, the 213-page publication includes 54 lessons and two field trips, plus a teacher’s guide for developing the lessons. The purpose was simple: “If we can teach kids not to pour things down storm drains, when they become adults, they won’t pour things down storm drains.”
As he prepares to move into his career, he hopes to work with maps, “teasing unique and interesting information out of various data sets. Also, how the landscape and people interact; I find that very interesting.”
Jones has worked at KGS since last December, helping Bethany Overfield of the Geologic Mapping Section. He has worked on her project connecting geology with the maintenance costs of state roads affected by landslides and rockfalls, as well as her cooperative project with the UK College of Nursing on radon and health. He thinks prospective employers will take him more seriously because of his work at KGS.
Among the people who have made a difference for him during his studies at the College of Agriculture was Adjunct Professor Boyd Shearer, whose energy and personality kept Jones from getting frustrated with the learning curve of GIS and maps. Jones adds that UK graduate Preston Lacy, who works with Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, was a valuable mentor.
His personal interests include group role-playing tabletop games, such as Pathfinder. “It’s good mental exercise that’s different from school.”