Sherrie AlexanderThe UAB Department of Neurosurgery is spotlighting staff to focus on the importance of hobbies for stress relief, wellness, and self-care. The goal of the series is to connect individuals across the department by highlighting their hobby as it relates to mental, physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, social, and financial wellness.

Sherrie Alexander has been a researcher III in Dr. Markert’s lab for three years now. She primarily works on maintaining the lab’s oncolytic virus inventory and histology support work. Prior to joining the Markert lab, she worked in the UAB Hospital Pharmacy as a senior certified technician and was a research assistant in Eric Sorscher’s lab while still an undergrad. Outside of the lab, Sherrie is currently an adjunct instructor of the UAB Cultural and Biological Anthropology. She completed her anthropology master’s degree in 2018 and her thesis research was on the relationship between humans and macaques (a medium sized monkey) in Morocco, North Africa.

purple flowers

What hobby do you currently focus on in your downtime?

"I have several hobbies that I bounce back and forth from depending on how much time I have. Birdwatching and looking for native plants are definitely my favorite things to do. Birdwatching is great since it takes so little time to find birds. They are literally all around us. (If you’re new to birding you should check out the Merlin app from Cornell and join Alabama Audubon since they have monthly classes and outings.) Recently, I started using iNaturalist app to record native plants I find on our property. It’s a great way to keep track of plants, among other things, but also provides information to the broader scientific community."

What inspired you to explore this hobby?

"My mom was an avid birder and gardener. She grew lots of vegetables and various flowers. But she was fascinated with wildflowers too, and was always telling me what they were. So I absolutely acquired my love of plants and birds from her. Then, when I worked at Alabama Wildlife Center and Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve years ago, I became even more obsessed with avian ecology and native plants."Chickens crop

Have you noticed a change in your well-being since beginning this hobby and how does that translate into your work?  

"Of course, life gets busy and the things we love get put on the backburner. For years I didn’t realize how important these activities were to my mental health. A year ago my husband bought me a new pair of binoculars to encourage me to revive my birdwatching. So now I take a few minutes most days to sit and watch and listen. Even if I don’t see much, it’s still my “nature pill” for the day. I learned that all-day outings are not the only way to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes. As far as work goes, taking a few minutes for myself gives me some grounding for the day. Even in the lab, this translates into being more focused, regardless of what I’m working on."

What hobby are you most proud of?

"The citizen science contributions of iNaturalist are great, and I’m also proud of my tiny farm. We have two Nigerian dwarf goats and about a dozen chickens. They’re lots of work, but so much fun to watch and interact with. The fresh eggs are wonderful and on days when the world seems out of control, sitting outside and petting a goat makes all the difference."