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She didn't set out to be a babysitter for pupae, but now ....



Jenny Shrum is a National Park Biologist in one of the most beautiful places on Earth: San Juan Island.


Before coming to the island, she worked on seasonal contracts for years at national parks all over the west. As a biologist, most of those jobs involved monitoring large animals.


“I’ve worked with lynx in Colorado and wolverine in Idaho and grizzly bears in Montana, seals in Alaska, Hawksbill turtles in Hawaii,” said Shrum.


But, In 2014, she got orders to come to the National Historical Park on San Juan Island to work with youth corps crews. Shrum was excited to work with one of her favorite large species: humans. But, when she arrived, that plan had changed.


“I was told that I was going to be working almost exclusively with the Island Marble Butterfly,” said Shrum.


There are only about 200 of them left in the wild.  San Juan Island is the only place they live. They start out as small as the head of a pin. And Shrum’s job with them would be mostly in a ramshackle lab in the woods.


“Initially I was mad. I was like, ‘what? But I thought I was going to be working with work crews and being outside and being able to do all this cool stuff!’”


In this story, hear how an unexpected job assignment for Shrum ends up becoming her passion.  


Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to
Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.