Science is often viewed as another subject to hurtle through in school, but for local environmental scientist Mary-Jo Hernandez, understanding the world and the key to saving it is vital. “To me, science makes sense! It’s not a theory, it’s not something that you can question, it’s a fact and it’s been proven, and there’s no questioning it,” she said.At the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, Hernandez is responsible for maintaining the health of the cooling canal system (CCS)—constructed to circulate and cool warm-water discharges—as a CCS engineer for Florida Power & Light. Her role is pivotal as it helps keep the power plant functioning.
She credits her AP environmental studies teacher who ignited her passion for environmental science as the driving force that pushed her to pursue a career in the field. “She fueled me into wanting to make sure that I knew what I was talking about and could relay the information, and could do something with my knowledge to help the environment,” she said.
With an eagerness to learn and succeed, she continued her studies and received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from Florida International University in fewer than four years. She quickly went to work for places such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center and the National Park Service, gaining hands-on experience.
As a first generation graduate and proud Latina, she wants to share her knowledge and educate the community about the environment, how to protect, conserve and restore it. She especially wants to use her bilingual skills to explain why the work she and her team are doing is important.
“In the Latin community, it’s not really something that is very talked about, environmental science and the environment, aside from getting on a boat and going out to the beach,” she said. “So I always like to communicate with them.”
She is especially proud of her role as a woman in the science community, believing the representation in the field has been lacking and hopes with her position and platform that women, especially Latinas, will be accepted as equals.
Like anyone else, Hernandez likes to spend time hanging out with friends, playing video or board games; however, at her core, she is an adventure-seeker and enjoys kayaking as well as being outdoors where she happily continues to appreciate nature.
Hernandez stands as an example when it comes to the importance of education, persistence, respect and dedication to one’s ambitions.
“I feel really proud to have this platform [and] show how capable not only I am but everybody else is. That you can rise to all these things; coming from a family in which my parents didn’t go to college, I was really proud to be that person for them and be able to go to college and succeed.”
Haz clic para leer en Español: Mary-Jo Hernández: Una fuerza para la naturaleza