The NFF believes in the value of matching the cutting-edge knowledge acquired at graduate level study with practical, hands-on experience. The purpose of the Conservation Connect Fellowship is to align NFF’s collaboration and conservation work with an experiential education opportunity. NFF is striving to meet each Fellow’s learning objectives, while also effectively delivering conservation results for National Forests and Grasslands through collaboration. The NFF gives Fellows the chance to gain direct experience in a variety of NFF and partner functions, specifically in collaborative processes and on-the-ground science applications.
The Conservation Connect Fellowship aims to build experience, knowledge, and skills to guide the next generation of collaborative leaders in the conservation field. The Fellowships are funded and administered by the NFF, with NFF and its partner organizations providing a practicum experience for each Fellow. Let’s meet this year’s Conservation Connect Fellows:
I’ve always felt close to the outdoors. Growing up in the Lolo National Forest, I stepped on bees and watched bears from the kitchen window. In high school, I experienced the disturbing effects that mass consumerism has on the environment when touring a banana plantation in Costa Rica. I learned that part of the process of growing bananas involved plastic bags that would likely end up in the ocean and kill wildlife. Unfortunately, no one around me realized that this was happening when they purchased bananas at the grocery store.
After receiving a degree in marketing, I felt an urge to do something meaningful in my life that aligned closely with my personal values and passion for conservation. I recognized that the educational and professional experience I gained in marketing could be leveraged to make a greater impact on conservation. I decided pursue graduate school to explore the relationship between marketing influencing human behavior and its impacts on conservation and natural resources.
When I discovered the Conservation Connect Fellowship at the NFF, I thought the first-hand experience with collaborative groups and decision-making on our National Forests would provide a unique insight into the public’s mindset on natural resource management. In my free time I enjoy exploring and fishing with my dog, Cedar, and tending to my small porch garden.
From a young age, my outings in the natural world - whether hiking, fishing, or camping - were some of my most valuable experiences. I became drawn to a career path that allowed me to spend my time and energy where I loved to be, yet it took time for me to realize this.
With a degree in Sociology and a fascination with people, I found myself doing important work at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Although I was encouraged by the work of my colleagues, I knew I had to return to what I loved to do to become personally gratified by the work that I did.
The more I read and researched, I was exposed to the threats facing our public lands and felt compelled to be a part of the local, state, and national dialogue around natural resource management issues. This led me to pursue a M.S. degree in Resource Conservation at the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation, a UM BRIDGES traineeship, and this fellowship with the National Forest Foundation. Through these opportunities, I have been able to explore how I can contribute to more sustainable solutions to complex issues. Outside of these interests, I like to go fishing and play card games.
Scrambling up volcanoes and wading through streams in Mt. Hood and Deschutes National Forests with my older siblings, I grew up adventuring within the National Forest System. Experiencing the incredible biodiversity these public lands host, and stories from a wide variety of Americans about our human connection with these landscapes inspired an appreciation for natural history at a young age. After living near and working on forests from the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire to White River National Forest in Colorado, I became inspired to transition from educating the public about forest ecology to influencing decisions about forest management. For four years I worked on water and wildlife policy in the American West, until deciding it was time to head to graduate school to study land conservation in depth. Working as a Conservation Connect Fellow for NFF has given me a new appreciation for our national forests: the potential for public lands to facilitate collaboration between stakeholders with very diverse interests. The Fellowship provides valuable experience facilitating productive conversations about the biggest challenges in forest management, and valuable insights into how to balance the multiple uses of our forests and the myriad needs of the ecosystems and communities they support.
Sophie Morin, NFF Summer Intern
The National Forest Foundation also funds an undergraduate internship each summer in Washington, DC. The internship is housed within the USDA Forest Service National Partnership Office, where the summer intern focuses on shared projects and conservation goals. Learn more about our partnership and meet Sophie, our 2018 Summer Intern.