Connection To Nature Inspires Student

Danielle Michaele Moore spent more than a year working as an organic farmer on an island near Portland, Oregon, growing everything from tomatoes to kohlrabi on about 20 acres.

The work was vastly different than what her background in photojournalism and documentary filmmaking prepared her for. But the experience taught her so much about nature—what kinds of pests to look out for, which seasons are best for growing certain produce and how to use natural fertilizers—and about her herself.

“I wanted to do something that grounded me and connected me to the environment,” said Moore, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia in 2009.

It’s that same connection to the environment, plus a curiosity about people, that inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

“I’m interested in what people are experiencing and how their environments affect their mental health,” she said. “Originally, I thought about going into counseling, but I couldn’t imagine just treating a person and not their environment.”

Moore said she’d ultimately like to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. “My end goal is to become an expert in how violence spreads in forms both personal and interpersonal. My focus has always been on facilitating connections between people and drawing them toward insights that inspire empathy within greater community.

Besides digging and planting, Moore has one other practice that keeps her connected to nature and strengthens her wellbeing: climbing boulders and scaling cliffs.

“What I love about rock climbing is that you have to be really patient with yourself. You can’t rush,” Moore said. “And at the end, you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. It allows you to see places you wouldn’t get to otherwise.”