How pandemic shifts brought Theresa Soley to Trustees
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How pandemic shifts brought Theresa Soley to Trustees

A cartoonized image of Theresa.

By Theresa Soley

The pandemic has meant changes for all of us – on personal and societal levels, in small communities and urban environments, around the entire world. The global health crisis had high costs in fatalities, increased stress for healthcare workers, led to a huge loss of service sector jobs for many people, and generated work-from-home opportunities for others.

For me, instructions to stay home and reduce in-person contact with others, as well as a change of direction that came with pandemic shifts in 2020, was exactly what I needed. So many aspects of the pandemic fed my soul and taught me important lessons.

I know this makes me privileged and I recognize and acknowledge my privilege, with gratitude for the resilient health me and my family members have experienced over the last three years.

Human, animal, environmental health go hand in hand

Theresa leads a yoga class in Juneau, Alaska.

As things were heating up with COVID-19 transmission in Seattle in March of 2020, I was completing a trauma-informed yoga teaching course there. A few days after returning home to Douglas Island, Alaska, society shut down.

I felt that I had just acquired tools to deal with stress and hardship, both on a personal and collective level – lessons regarding breathing and twisting and moving through confusion and discomfort.

Staying home allowed me to take space from outside pressures. I unexpectedly enrolled in another graduate program that suddenly launched online, through the Center for One Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Since summer of 2022, I am proud to be a One Health Master!

The One Health paradigm suggests that human, animal, and environmental health are all linked; in order to reach optimum health in one sphere, we need to consider all three spheres holistically. There were so many One Health connections and lessons during the initial phases of the pandemic: a virus spillover event in rural China passed through animals, like bats, eventually made way into human populations, and spread quickly around the globe.

Image from the Center for One Health Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Aspects of the abiotic, environmental system influenced the virus spillover event as well; experts say that increased temperatures induced by anthropogenic climate change equate to an increase in transmissible disease outbreaks and predict many more global health crises for human populations as the Earth continues to warm. I believe most of our society’s grandest challenges can best be considered and resolved by considering a One Health approach.

Working toward a more just and balanced world

So, that largely brings me to the present moment, in which I chose to change my scenery and move from Southeast to Southcentral Alaska, where I am now working as the new communications coordinator with Trustees for Alaska. My professional work experience and career goals involve working toward a more just and balanced world, acknowledging the value and interconnections amongst humans, animals, and the ecosystem.

Teresa standing on a mountain summit.
Theresa on Mount Fairweather in May 2022.

I look forward to further exploration of this mountainous coastline – Dena’ina homelands — via skis, trails, and motorized as well as human-powered marine vessels.

Theresa Soley joined the Trustees team as communications coordinator in February 2023. She finished her One Health Master’s degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2022 – a pandemic degree which focuses on interconnections amongst the human-environment-animal spheres. She is also a B.S. in biology and a M.A. in science communication. Theresa has worked on marine vessels around the world, including a vessel that traveled to the Antarctic Peninsula, and a vessel that returned from Japan to Alaska with stops in Kamchatka, Dutch Harbor, and Kodiak. She hails from Wisconsin.