My Name Is...Jennifer Campbell-Smith

Eighth-grade physical science teacher at STEM School and Academy

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My background

I was born in Colorado and from the ages of 2 to 12 years old, I lived in California. I then moved back to Highlands Ranch where I went to Ranch View Middle School and graduated from ThunderRidge High School in 2003.

I attended Colorado State University for a degree in zoology. That is where I started doing animal behavior research. I went to graduate school in upstate New York at Binghamton University for my Ph.D. in American crow social structure and behavioral ecology.

I started teaching at STEM last fall. Up until then I was working part-time as a taxidermist and volunteering at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

When I first heard about STEM, I thought, I would have killed to go to this school. So I sent an inquiry email and two days later, I had a job.

My research

I'm still very much an active scientist. I applied to be a research associate for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, an unpaid position. Through that, I can utilize museum collections and resources. Basically, it's a home academic institution for myself. It also gives me an opportunity to get students involved in real, publishable resources.

I started a natural history club at STEM as a way for students to get involved in natural history, learn about careers in natural history and get them involved in research.

Kestrel project

Our natural history club will be working with Wild Wings Environmental Education, Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the American Kestrel Partnership, a subpart of the Peregrine Fund. We will be building nest boxes and monitoring nest boxes to start. We will be taking data on what makes a successful nest and what makes an unsuccessful nest.

I'm hoping to have one nest by the school. I'm also hoping to have nests around other Highlands Ranch schools to get other students involved. We will also be looking at natural nests.

I'd love to start a magpie project, but one step at a time. I love studying ravens, magpies and crows — animals that learn to exist with humans. I'm fascinated by the social systems of these animals.

Fun fact

My husband and I are licensed falconers. We hunt small prey using red-tailed hawks, falcons and eagles — not with guns or bows. We just got our 14th rabbit on Super Bowl Sunday.

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