Double major continues passion for conserving wildlife.
Graduate School & Degree
Upon graduating from Ursinus in 2012, I headed out and took advantage of several internship opportunities before enrolling in my masters program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. First, I flew out to San Francisco, California where I interned at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory (GGRO) – a non-profit that collects the bulk of its raptor migration data by utilizing an immense network of volunteers. It was my responsibility as an intern to identify, count, and band a variety of raptor species from red-tailed hawks to peregrine falcons as they flew south on their annual fall migration. I then relocated to Baraboo, Wisconsin to intern at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) – a world-renowned non-profit dedicated to the conservation of crane species world-wide. My role at ICF was to collect data in support of on-going research regarding endangered whooping cranes (a North American species). These duties ranged from sampling biting insect densities on whooping crane breeding territories to performing behavioral observations. I also helped collect data on a local population of sandhill cranes conducting sighting surveys and capturing chicks prior to fledging for banding and anatomical measurements. At the completion of my internship at ICF, I began an environmental education internship at the Green Valleys Watershed Association (GVA) in Pottstown, PA. I lead after school Nature Clubs for second graders and later worked as a camp counselor at their annual Summer Nature Camp. During my time with the GVA I worked with children ranging from pre-K through 7th grade challenging me to translate often complicated ecological concepts to a wide range of ages. One of my key focuses as an educator was to teach children how to use their surroundings to assess environmental health.
This diversity of experiences lead me to my current position as a graduate student through the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I am studying the long-term impacts of wind farm development on raptor abundance and behavior. I am thrilled to be enrolled in an institution that emphasizes interdisciplinary research and as such I will be incorporating a social or policy component into my field research. Drawing from my experiences in citizen science, community conservation, and education, I hope to assess not just the impact of wind development on wildlife, but also the political and public divide in support for this sustainable energy source.
Impact of Ursinus
As so many alumni of Ursinus will attest, it is the faculty, their ambitions, and their passion for not just teaching but facilitating growth and learning in their students that makes the largest impact on the lives of students even well past graduation day.
For me, I was touched by several of Ursinus’ esteemed faculty over the course of my undergraduate career. From the Biology department, it was Ellen and Robert Dawley who “adopted” me as I traveled with them for a semester abroad in the Yucatan Peninsula and then again to Costa Rica for winter recess in 2011. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I made as a student at Ursinus. My semester in the Yucatan exposed me to a diversity of cultures and climates and, at risk of sounding cliché, truly “broadened my horizons”. It was equal parts adventure and growth. Then from my short stay in Costa Rica I acquired the bird handling skills and field research experiences that leveraged my internship at the GGRO, the first of many dominos to fall in my journey to graduate school. Grounded back on Ursinus’ campus, it was Ellen Dawley again who helped develop and oversee my honors research pertaining to sexual selection and tail autotomy in red-backed salamanders.
From the Environmental Studies department, I blossomed under the mentorship and friendship of Rich Wallace. I cannot speak more highly of a single faculty member. He introduced me to the interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem solving which has become my passion; he labored to not simply teach but to endow his students with the tools and skills essential to succeed personally and professionally in their lives beyond Ursinus; and continued to guide and support me well beyond my graduation. Under Rich’s guidance I reviewed the management history and current threats to the threatened California sea otter population. This was the project that illuminated the true value and necessity of interdisciplinary thinking in the context of wildlife management. It is this research that continues to shape me and my future career aspirations.
Piece of Advice
Although you will graduate from Ursinus, and perhaps go on to graduate from a masters or doctorate program, never stop being a student – never stop learning. Be aware of this, be open to it, and furthermore, encourage it. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that no one takes this journey alone. The world is filled with people who received help when they were still young and struggling to find their footing and now they are eager to “pay it forward”. Be courteous and humble, but don’t be afraid to reach out. I am constantly being reminded of the kindness and generosity that exists in the world and in the scientific community.