When Tara Edblom graduated from high school in Plum City, she was interested in everything from archeology to sports medicine. But a cousin who remembered her early fascination with earthworms, predicted she would have a career in natural resources. He was right. Today, she is an environmental toxicologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
One of Edblom?s main responsibilities is coordinating Wisconsin?s Toxic Release Inventory. She maintains a database of facilities that annually report chemical releases and waste management activities. The information helps communities prepare for emergencies.
Edblom has put her graduate work in amphibian toxicology to good use at the DNR. She conducts toxicological research, working with other DNR scientists. She also serves on several teams, including one that is developing strategies for managing toxic chemicals as well as dangerous chemicals that accumulate in animals.
Edblom declared wildlife ecology as her major after taking a class on terrestrial vertebrates taught by Scott Craven, “It was my favorite college course,” she says, adding that Craven made learning fun. Edblom went on to earn a bachelor?s degree in natural resources in 1995.
Edblom was an intern with the Sierra Club in Madison and the DNR while an undergraduate. After graduating she also interned with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.
After a stint with a Minnesota landscaping company, Edblom returned to the UW-Madison as a graduate student, while working as a wildlife education assistant with the DNR.
Under the direction of wildlife toxicologist Bill Karasov, Edblom conducted research on chemicals that might harm frogs. She earned her master?s in wildlife ecology in 2001. She credits Karasov for helping her to think like a scientist. “He does an amazing job of research, teaching and mentoring.”
Wildlife ecologist Bob Ruff also made a strong impression, according to Edblom. “He really carried out Aldo Leopold?s land ethic and philosophy. I hope I can pass along his love of the land in my career.”
Edblom says the College taught her many important skills, including self confidence and teamwork. She encourages students to pursue activities both in and outside of class, and to take charge of their own education by asking lots of questions. Persistence pays when looking for internships and volunteer work, she says, adding that nothing beats hands-on experience.