Less than a year later after that bonfire in her junior year, Marisa was honored as NatureBridge’s Student of the Year in 2018. We’ve interviewed her on two prior occasions because of her passion, commitment and insights. Each time, she brings a new perspective as to what it’s like to take the next steps as an environmental steward after taking part in a high school NatureBridge program.
We last spoke with her six months prior to the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S. At the time, a day in the life of Marisa Granados sounded as wildly busy as it did impressive: she was the resident assistant of a dorm, honors student, weekend snowboarder, NOLS Wilderness First Responder, blog writer, an involved fellow with Our Climate Voices and she even logged hours in pursuit of her private pilot license. Before she’d even graduated high school, she developed an environmental stewardship handbook for middle school students in concert with the U.S. Forest Service. She founded Earth Guardians Albuquerque and The Planet Justice Project in 2018 and once called herself, “unstoppable” in her purpose-driven quest to be “an ally for the environment and future generations.”
All this before she was 20 years old.
In the subsequent years since we last spoke, Marisa has drawn closer to obtaining her degree in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, and has faced the same challenges that many students have due to the pandemic — isolation, a virtual learning environment, increased academic pressure.
“At the beginning of college, I was doing so much advocacy. I wrote a weekly blog, took part in a storytelling fellowship, led Earth Guardians and I’m sure a lot more,” she says. “And honestly, I got really burnt out. I got burnt out and depressed about the state of our climate and people’s unwillingness to engage in this super important conversation.”
Climate anxiety and burnout among climate scientists is a documented phenomenon; it’s unsurprising that someone as passionate as Marisa, with her deeply felt convictions and personal connection to nature, would feel its impact. But instead of throwing up her hands in exasperation and leaving the environmental science field to use her talents elsewhere, she stepped back to refocus and recalibrate.
"I listened to myself; listened to my body. I wanted to focus on smaller scale things and rebuild in a way that takes care of myself, so that when I have my degree, I can be very involved.”
Marisa’s field of study not only contains a risk of emotional burnout and anxiety, but its curriculum is also best administered with field work, lab days and hands-on science. Colorado State University, like many colleges, canceled in-person classes for part of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. This left Marisa and many other students with online “laboratories” and self-starter research to conduct in their backyards or public parks, instead of field excursions with classmates and a professor.
“It was sad,” Marisa says. “It definitely wasn’t as in-depth as it would’ve been in person. Plus not being able to meet new people was difficult.”
Thankfully, the return of in-person classes at Colorado State last year brought back field days, lab experiments and the ability to dive deep into the topics that fascinated Marisa and her classmates.
“It’s funny — you don’t realize how much you miss something until you get it back,” she says.