Crystal Crown standing in front of rock formation
With a background in ecology, conservation biology, data analysis, and project management, Crystal Crown worked on citywide tree inventory projects with New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation before joining the Natural Areas Conservancy.

What is your current occupation?

I am a scientist working at the Natural Areas Conservancy, a non-profit based out of New York City. I am part of a small team of researchers studying natural spaces (e.g., forests and salt marshes) that are embedded in urban environments. We study the condition and attributes of these areas as well as threats to them. 

Where were you born, where do you live now, and where were you educated?

I was born and still live in New York City. I’ve lived here most of my life, aside from a stint sailing tall-ships – the waterfront was the gateway to how I ended up in the conservation field. I went to City-AS, an alternative high school in Manhattan, where I was lucky enough to work at South Street Seaport maintaining ships and building boats at a small community boat house called Floating the Apple. There is a strong overlap between waterfront activities and conservation, so the progression was natural. I graduated and worked on a schooner, doing environmental education, and met some great folks. Once I was back on land, I studied biological sciences at CUNY Brooklyn College, and applied ecology at SUNY Stony Brook for my master’s degree. 

What is your area of expertise?

The intersection of ecology, urban natural areas management, and data science. 

What is your primary motivation for doing the work that you do?

With such a small fraction of our world’s wild areas still present across the globe, and so many species in peril, I feel motivated to uncover new knowledge about the natural world, to teach us how to preserve these spaces and species – not just altruistically, but for our own health and wellbeing. I hope that the work I do will ensure that some of our wild heritage is preserved, even in unexpected places like cities.  

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

I get to do research for a living – which is something that I always wanted to do. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a “scientist” – and while it’s not quite as glamorous as I’d expected, I feel pretty lucky. 

What do you strive to achieve in the future?

Professionally, I’d like to conduct research in cities outside of the US. Personally – which is somewhat related – I’d like to visit every continent! 

Have you ever thought about the name HOBO and what it might mean?

The word hobo usually refers to a wanderer or vagabond, someone scrappy, adaptable, and resilient. So, maybe the name implies that your equipment is similar; that it can go anywhere and persist? 

What HOBO products do you use on a regular basis?

HOBO MX2304 air temperature loggers with solar radiation shields and the HOBOconnect app

Can you describe a specific project where HOBO data loggers played a key role?

During the summer of 2022 I was privileged to lead a study, in collaboration with the Forests in Cities Network, focused on air temperature of forests in urban environments. For this study we deployed over 120 HOBO MX2304 air temperature sensors with solar radiation shields on trees across 12 urban centers in the United States. Our goal was to see if we could detect differences in air temperature between forested locations and areas of landscaped trees, and to see if we could detect temperature differences between areas of healthy and degraded forest. The first report from this project can be found here, but we are still working through the analysis to learn more! 

What HOBO features do you consider most important?

The sensors we used are very rugged and reliable. We put them all over the urban environment; they were exposed to all kinds of weather and whatnot, and we rarely ran into an issue that wasn’t rooted in user error or deliberate vandalism (sometimes by squirrels), <1% of sensors by the end of it. I also really appreciate the HOBOconnect app, which made it so easy to interact with the sensors, program them, and retrieve data.

Do you think accurate data can help you build a better tomorrow?

Yes, absolutely, but it has to be paired with expertise and the appropriate questions. If all those pieces are in place, accurate data can help us make informed decisions about current and future problems big and small – from things like maintaining habitat for a single endangered species to global issues like solving food insecurity. In my field in particular, the study of urban natural areas, we’re lacking a lot of fundamental data at scale, such as the simple location and extent of these areas. If we had accurate, comparable data about that, we could use it to protect these areas, for one, but also study them.  

If you could spend the day on the job with one person (living or deceased), who would it be?

I don’t have a specific person in mind, but I think it would be amazing to bring an early scientist into the future, and spend a day showing them all we’ve learned, thanks to their early discoveries.