Chasing Carbon: Headed to Mexico with Scientist Dad

It’s the end of the school year and I am about to lose my mind. Every day there is another Important Event that threatens to be forgotten but cannot be missed: baseball games, graduation ceremonies, potlucks, birthday parties (why are there so many kids born in June?).

There are final reports, final conferences, final performances (did I mention I’m a teacher, as well as a parent?). We race from one Important Event to the next while trying, and not quite managing, to keep up with the daily routine of making lunches, arriving on time to school, checking homework, eating dinner, bathing, sleeping.

I cannot wait for summer. And yet I haven’t had time to think about summer for ten seconds. This summer we will be in Mexico.

In four days we leave for Mexico!

I should probably start packing.

How does one prepare to spend seven weeks in Mexico with an eight-year-old and a five-year-old? I am pretty sure my husband has already purchased our tickets and that the information is in our Google calendar. I think I know where our passports are. I have money in the bank account.

I can throw some clothes together in a jiffy (bathing suit, sundress, t-shirt, shorts, underwear, flip-flops). I’ll swing by Barnes and Noble and pick up two journals for the kids and some chapter books. They must sell sunscreen in Mexico. How hard can it be?

But how does one prepare MENTALLY to spend seven weeks in Mexico with an eight-year-old and a five-year-old? That is a task that requires more attention.

My husband, Peter Ellis, is a Forest Carbon Scientist with The Nature Conservancy. This summer he will be working with the government of Mexico and other partners to develop programs to reduce emissions from deforestation, conserve forests and measure the benefits for our climate. (Apparently, when you cut a tree down it releases CO2 into the air, adding to climate change. When you save a tree, you help save our climate.) I think. I actually understand very little about what my husband does.

We will be joining him this summer in Merida, Chiapas, and Oaxaca, as faithful sidekicks — and certain distractions — with the purpose of learning more about what he does. Also on our agenda: see ruins, learn Spanish, eat beans and tortillas, drink licuados, visit the rain forest, and study iguanas.

I am most looking forward to exploring a new culture with my kids, more as visitors than as tourists, and to learning that there is far more to this world than meets the eye in Mt. Rainier, Maryland.

But my primary objective is to get close to their father’s work. I want them to come away knowing what carbon is and why Papa is working so hard to conserve it. I want them to understand that people are responsible for the environment all over the world, at many different levels, and to know how they might playáa part in protecting their planet.

First, however, I need to find the roller-bags, do another load of laundry, and frost the cupcakes for the Final Baseball Game of the Year. Wish me luck!

Jes Ellis is a teacher at Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, DC., and is married to Peter Ellis, Forest Carbon Scientist for The Nature Conservancy. This post, adapted from a recent blog on Planet Change, is the first in a series by the couple, who will spend the summer in Mexico with their two children while Peter works to measure the carbon stored and emitted from Mexico’s forests. Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.

Top photo courtesy of Jes & Peter Ellis (The Ellis children, ready for a summer of science and funáin Mexico.)
Photo by Rane Cortez: (The Nature Conservancy’s Forest Carbon Scientist Peter Ellis at work.)

By Jes Ellis


Franck Rio
Frank R3 years ago

Good Post

Franck Rio
Frank R3 years ago

Thanks foe saharing

Terry V.
Terry V3 years ago


Michael H.
Mike H3 years ago

Thanks for posting this

Brian M.
Past Member 4 years ago

Great article. We need to significantly reduce consumption of energy and resources. We need to quickly transition away from dirty fossil fuel energy to clean, renewable energy. We need to limit our population growth. We need to be planting as many trees as we can; Care2 makes this easy because of one can redeem credits to have a tree planted. And, we need to start preparing now for the consequences of climate change that are now unavoidable.

Natasha Salgado
natasha s4 years ago

Thanks 4 sharing!

Tim C.
Tim C4 years ago


Marija M.
Marija M4 years ago

Thank you

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se4 years ago


Tesni Bishop
.4 years ago

Very good. Thanks.