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Idaho State Graduate Student Experiences Life-Changing Research in Chile

January 18, 2023

Two women in life jackets on a boat
Jilian Everly and Sarah Ebel

Jillian Everly was studying wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech when she became interested in social science and how people are connected and involved in conservation. She didn’t know it then, but her curiosity would take her not only to Idaho State University, but to Chile, where she spent seven months working alongside “sea women,” learning about their lives and families. 

Working with Anthropology Professor Sarah Ebel, Everly is examining the generational differences in subjective well-being of women in marine fishing communities in southern Chile. She spent seven months in Chile working with and interviewing women and their families. 

Everly’s research involved interviewing women about their jobs and family lives. She then pulled out specific themes about what makes up women’s well-being in the sea-dependent livelihoods they live. She considered family, community, and the sustainability of the environment they're dependent upon. 

“It’s important to recognize how women are impacted,” she said. “It’s important to give them a voice and tell their narratives. The women have a lot of roles they’re expected to fill and they’re not necessarily given their due credit.”

Ebel has worked alongside Everly during the whole process. She says she likes to guide her students in thinking about their work from a global perspective. 

“Being able to think from a global perspective is really important in trying to understand problems and why they are happening,” she said. 

Ebel believes that Everly’s research is making an academic contribution to a feminist perspective of how women experience global change. 

“This is significant in academia because most of the research is centered on male roles,” she said. “Jillian’s work is making women’s work visible. These women are creating meal trains for each other, taking care of each other’s children, and harvesting natural resources in sustainable ways. There’s visible and invisible labor and Jillian’s work is giving that perspective.”

Everly has learned and grown beyond her research. 

“I had to break out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I’m typically shy. That’s one barrier I feel like I overcame. I feel like I can talk to most people. That was beneficial personally,” 

Everly said what she learned from the women made her appreciative of the life she lives, and that she’s tried to incorporate some of the lessons learned into her own life here at home.

“What they’ve gone through is really eye-opening and impactful,” she said. “The U.S. is very individualistic. Chile is very community driven. The power of community that they have, I’ve tried to bring those lessons learned back to my own life. They prioritize family and community. That was a major difference and a big lesson learned.”

Everly will graduate with a master’s degree in anthropology in May 2023. In addition to her thesis, Everly is also writing an ethnography and poetry about her experience. She’s writing poems about the women she lived and worked with in Chile and plans to give them to the women. 

She’s also been working with Ebel’s nonprofit organization based in Chile. The non-profit is called La Fuerza del Buzo, “The strength of a diver.” The people they work with in Chile are marine resource harvesters. Ebel says that because of large scale global change (climate) in combination with the development of large scale global industry, the communities are seeing major changes. Youth leave to work elsewhere. Family is really important to them and they want to address marine pollution and have other options for work. 

La Fuerza del Buzo identifies needs of the communities and then develops programs such as a youth internship program, and diving illness prevention workshops. Everly connected with two women in Chile who are working to develop programs to address the community’s concerns. Ebel says that Everly’s work contributes to community outreach. The organization is moving forward with ideas that are coming from her research.

“Our hope is to hire someone like Jillian in the future,” Ebel said. “Students really want to contribute to their communities, whether it’s Pocatello or southern Chile. Sometimes it takes some time to figure out and find what is the best way to do that. Every job I’ve seen Jillian apply to is doing that type of work because those are the values she has.”

Everly says that she has many personal goals, and is looking for social science positions in fisheries, and hopes to work with non-profit organizations. 

“I’m a person who likes to take on big things. I have big dreams and goals. I feel like that was fulfilled by my time there,” Everly said. “Some of the best moments were the simple things like visiting and having tea with the women. I had fun cooking and learning with everyone. There was a language barrier for me. At first it was hard to talk to strangers, but over time I gained confidence in speaking with people. I felt like that became very powerful in making and maintaining connections and building community.”


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