Sparked by family vacations to our National Parks and an appreciation of my hometown’s natural places, I dispersed a short distance from my natal range in the northwest suburbs of Chicago to study Biological Aspects of Conservation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During this time and in the years following my graduation in 2011, my views of conservation shifted. The experiences that influenced this shift include:
- working as a horseback trail guide in Yellowstone National Park, where I explained to guests not only the geologic, but also the human history of our nation’s oldest park;
- learning to identify over 115 prairie species that the Aldo Leopold Foundation planted on an old farm field 10 years prior, and reporting on their densities in response to three seeding treatments;
- gathering radio telemetry data on Eastern wild turkey hens in Delaware for a study on the reproductive rates of this popular game species;
- spending two additional years as an intern and associate at the Aldo Leopold Foundation learning about two things: “the relationship of people to each other, and the relationship of people to the land.”
Where I previously stood only with a hands-off, human-isolated perspective, my stance now encourages active participation in resource management and the integration of people into our environmental legacy. My latest endeavor, a Master’s degree in the Environment and Resources program of the Nelson Institute, examines the retention rates of new hunters who participate in the Wisconsin DNR’s Learn to Hunt program. This project stands in the context of a national decline in hunters, whose contributions to conservation in the form of license sales, equipment purchases, and advocacy for conservation are declining with them.