➼ NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION GRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOW ➼
Jessica Hernandez’s connection to the ocean and fishing goes back many generations. “On my mother’s side we are indigenous Zapotec and on my father’s side we are indigenous Ch’orti’. I belong to one of the strongest matriarchal indigenous communities and it is my inherited right to honor our indigenous kinships with Mother Earth.” While she’s carried these deep roots in her heart, when it came to her studies she had other subjects in mind. “When I came to Berkeley I thought I was going to do bioengineering, but I realized that wasn’t my passion. Coming from coastal indigenous communities, I was always interested in learning more about the ocean. Then I realized Berkeley had a marine science major.”
After finishing her lower division classes Jessica started putting her passion and learning into practice. “The summer between my second and third year I conducted research at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy Management under the Pallud Lab at Berkeley on sediment analysis. After that I joined the Koehl Lab and worked on marine larvae and was introduced to biomechanics—ocean engineering.” The project, funded by the NSF and Navy, looked at Schizoporella errata larvae that form encrustations on ships, decreasing the efficiency. “The larvae were from Pearl Harbor, and I went to Hawaii for a summer internship.”
After graduating in 2013, Jessica got a job in a lab in Louisiana analyzing the effects of the BP Oil Spill. “I collaborated with the consortium’s principal investigators on their projects, which included analyzing the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on offshore oxygen dynamics-hypoxia to its negative effects on marsh‐associated fish populations. ” During this time, she also started a non-profit called Kaknab, short for “k’aa’naab”, the Yucateco word for ocean. The mission is to use community-based solutions to protect the ocean and the cultures it sustains. “There are eight of us. We work together with community leaders, fishermen, and volunteers to address the problems caused by overfishing, the lack of sustainable fishing equipment, and pollution.”
Jessica is now in Seattle at the University of Washington reconnecting with her love of the ocean and environment as pre-doctoral student. She completed a dual masters: Masters of Marine Affairs and Masters of Science in Environmental & Forest Sciences this past Spring ’17 from the College of Environment. For her master thesis she researched how indigenous peoples addressed regional environmental justice cases in the Pacific Northwest. Her project is accessible on www.ejpnw.org.
Her Ph.D. work aims to 1) decolonize the climate change discourse and 2) indigenize climate science research, policy, and justice.
Jessica serves as a teaching assistant for the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and the American Indian Studies Department. She is the instructor for Decolonizing the Environmental Discourse, taught at the College of the Environment (Winter '17) and the Department of American Indian Studies (Spring '17). The course examines the concept of environmental justice through a decolonization lens—giving a voice to to those who have been silenced in the official environmental discourse. Through guest presentations, group work, facilitated discussions, readings, and inclusive teaching strategies students examined & explored current and past environmental justice cases. Some of the cases include; the Dakota Access Pipeline, Flint, Michigan, San Joaquin Valley’s Drinking Water, etc.
" I call on my ancestors & relatives who passed on every time I give a presentation or talk, as they are the reason why I can be standing where I am today as an empowered indigenous woman." Jessica Hernandez