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Seeds of Inspiration

Author: Chad Sanborn | Image: Chad Sanborn

Seeds of Inspiration

From childhood experiences in a coconut orchard, a forestry career flourishes

In a vibrant coconut orchard in Mexico, the seeds of Denia Troxell’s future were planted.

As a young girl, she spent her days under the watchful eyes of her grandparents, amid towering coconut trees and the rhythms of fertile farmland. This orchard, seemingly endless to her imagination, was a playground of learning and discovery. “It was probably a little more than an acre, but to me, as a five-year-old, it was huge,” Troxell reminisced. Her grandfather’s meticulous care of the trees, relying solely on rainfall for water, instilled in her an early appreciation for the delicate balance between nature and nurture. These formative years in the orchard sparked Troxell’s lifelong passion for plants, leading her down a path of environmental stewardship, scientific curiosity, and a harmonious blend of family life and professional ambition.

The journey from that Mexican orchard to her current role as State Seed Bank Manager for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has been winding. Troxell found her calling in plant breeding, a field that blended her childhood love for plants with her scientific skills. She discovered the importance of balance and resilience while pursuing an online master’s in plant breeding from Iowa State University and managing her professional and parenting responsibilities.

Troxell navigated the complexities of online learning, finding strength in group collaborations and peer support. These virtual classrooms became a space for shared challenges and collective problem-solving, especially in her demanding genetics course.

Iowa State’s online education allowed Troxell a seamless application of her studies into her daily work. The universality of genetic principles now plays a crucial role in her daily professional tasks. For instance, her collaboration with the USDA Forest Service Region 5 in various reforestation efforts to streamline practices is proof of the practical application of her studies.

The balancing act of education, career, and motherhood was not without its trials. She learned a valuable lesson in patience and perseverance, pacing herself as she came to understand that life is more about steady progress than rushing to the finish line. “It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon,” Troxell advised.

Managing stress during her coursework became a crucial skill for Troxell. She learned to let go of perfection, accept her limitations, and make sacrifices where necessary. “You can’t do it all,” she confessed, speaking to the challenges of balancing multiple roles. “But I checked in on my mental well-being. I often reminded myself that this stress wasn’t going to last forever.”

She also found perseverance from outside sources, including a former colleague who introduced her to the Iowa State program. This mentorship helped steer her toward further academic and professional growth. As a result, Troxell continuously engages in professional development, such as being a speaker at various conferences and regularly conducting training sessions. These efforts in educating the public about reforestation and seed sourcing address critical environmental issues.

As a mother, Troxell’s journey has another purpose. She seeks to be a role model for her daughters. “It’s very challenging, in general, for girls to stay on a path that they want,” she said.  “But I want them to understand it’s not about how long it takes you to get there. It’s about finishing what you started.” In teaching by example the value of perseverance, Denia’s story is a powerful example that challenges, no matter how daunting, can be overcome.

Troxell’s tale is one of personal evolution, professional dedication, and the continuous pursuit of one’s passions amidst the complexities of life. Her roots in a humble orchard have blossomed into a life dedicated to plant breeding, environmental care, and inspiring the next generation to follow their dreams with determination and balance.

Denia Troxell

“Graduate school is not a sprint; it’s a marathon” 

— Denia Troxell

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