We thank the Johnson Foundation of the Rockies for the generous support of the 2020 Conservation Connect Fellowship Program.

NFF believes in the value of matching cutting-edge knowledge acquired in graduate-level studies with practical, hands-on experiences. 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 NFF, with NFF and its partner organizations providing a practicum experience for each Fellow.

Let's meet the 2020 cohort of Conservation Connect Fellows:

Andrew Hursh

Andrew is a third-year student at Vermont Law School. In law school, Andrew has focused his course work on water, climate, and international law. He has long been dedicated to natural resources and public lands; at the University of Montana, he studied at the college of forestry and conservation as an undergraduate and earned a master's degree in systems ecology with research focused on global soil responses to climate change. Andrew is eager to work on public interest environmental issues in both policy and science, and he has previously worked with Friends of the San Juans in Washington and Wilderness Watch in Montana and has performed research for several other conservation groups. Prior to law school, Andrew guided backcountry hiking and river trips, worked as an editor for scientific manuscripts, and acquired a variety of other valuable experiences from winemaking to music instruction at home and abroad. Andrew is always thinking about his next backcountry trip and lives for the time he can spend in our National Forests.

Amber Jolly

Amber recently completed her M.S. in Biology from California State University, Los Angeles, where she studied the seasonal adjustment of leaf functional traits of native vegetation in the San Gabriel Mountains. Her thesis research investigated how plants physiologically respond to increased drought stress as consequence climate change. She also completed her B.S. in Biological Sciences at California State University, Fullerton in 2018, where she studied the impact of urban freshwater runoff on algae in marine protected areas. She is now continuing her education by pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of California, Irvine, in ecology and evolutionary biology, where she plans to continue to research plant functional traits with physiological approaches. She has a long-term interest in translating science to affect policy and is excited to learn more about natural resource management by working as a Conservation Connect Fellow.

Abby Potts

Abby was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, fostering a deep love for the natural world early on. Abby grew up running and cross-country skiing around the trails and forests of her secluded hometown and learned the importance of protecting ecosystems, conserving wilderness, and providing access to these pristine places. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan. Her research has focused on plant-insect interactions and the effects of climate change on milkweed and milkweed specialist insects like the monarch butterfly. Abby completed all of her field research at the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston, MI, learning the joys of field station life. Abby is avidly involved in outdoor recreation and getting others out on the trails, being a founder and two-term president of the University of Michigan Nordic Ski Club, as well as being engaged in her community trail running and biking. Abby is passionate about conserving and restoring ecosystems and leading others to become passionate about the natural world.

Christopher MacKay

Christopher is a graduate student at The University of Montana pursuing an M.S. in Resource Conservation and a certificate in Natural Resources Conflict Resolution. He studied Philosophy, Latin, and Classical History at The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. The Appalachian Mountains in Georgia inspired a great love of nature which led Christopher to abandon academia temporarily and seek adventure in the outdoors.

Placing great value on service, Christopher served as both a Peace Corps (Ukraine) and AmeriCorps (Bend, Oregon) volunteer. In Ukraine, Christopher taught English, directed an outdoor camp for students, gave presentations about Leave No Trace principles, and worked on trail projects in the Carpathian Mountains. Working with Heart of Oregon Corps based out of Bend, he merged education, stewardship, and job skills training for AmeriCorps crews on BLM, USFS, and Bend Parks and Recreation projects.

During the summer months Christopher works for the Forest Service, primarily as a wilderness ranger (Willamette National Forest and Klamath National Forest). His work with the Forest Service has also included leading volunteer, agency, and contract trail maintenance crews as well as working as a Resource Advisor on forest fires. Believing that expanding public participation on public lands will be crucial for the future of conservation, Christopher is eager to work with the National Forest Foundation on the “Partnerships On Every Forest” project based out of Missoula, Montana.

Elizabeth Forster

Liz Forster is a Juris Doctorate and Masters of Public Administration candidate at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana in Missoula. She hopes to receive a certificate in Natural Resources & Environmental Law alongside her law degree.

Hailing from Connecticut and moving to Colorado for college, Liz originally sought out to pursue a career in journalism. Her undergraduate degree in Environmental Policy and lifetime of exploring the Connecticut woods steered her toward environmental journalism and an instrumental summer covering Colorado wildfires. The experience left her asking what more she could do to positively influence wildfire mitigation and suppression in the era of climate change. Those musings eventually led her to Missoula to study law.

Liz spends her free time hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and searching for books with beautiful covers.

Kristen Jovanelly

Kristen is a Master of Forestry candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She received her B.S from Saint Lawrence University in Conservation Biology and Francophone Studies where she studied the intersections of social and ecological resilience. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, Kristen worked in the nonprofit sector for four years, driven to learn more about the unique relationships between conservation and community and how these values weave into complex landscapes. Most recently, she worked as an Early Literacy Program Coordinator at Teton Literacy Center, where she learned, with her little friends, that the charismatic magnitude of the Tetons can be matched by a gregarious worm. Kristen was drawn to the Conservation Connect Fellowship because she feels most inspired working with and learning from passionate people with diverse perspectives on fostering the health and appreciation of our landscapes and communities. In her natural habitat, Kristen can be found trotting up a trail, sleeping past her bird-watching alarm, eating carrots directly from the ground, or slipping a dog a treat.

Sanober Mirza

Sanober is currently finishing her master’s degree from the University of Montana in the International Conservation and Development program. She is interested in how communities collaborate across international borders to solve environmental problems. In addition, Sanober tries to center her work around diverse experiences and representation within conservation and environmentalism. She moved to Montana to pursue the social side of conservation after studying Geography and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wisconsin. She is excited to be working with the National Forest Foundation this summer in hopes to improve its ability to prioritize and engage with underrepresented audiences. Sanober won’t have any free time until she finishes writing her thesis, but she dreams about once again tossing a frisbee, making cool maps, and exploring all her favorite Western and upper Midwestern landscapes.

Shauni Seccombe

Originally from upstate New York, Shauni Seccombe grew up on a dairy farm at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. In this nature-rich rural setting, Shauni developed a deep appreciation for the natural environment and a heart for conservation. Eager to put her hands to work, Shauni served as a Montana Conservation Corps volunteer, which first sparked her interest in the working landscapes of the Intermountain West. Then, she spent three seasons working with the US Forest Service and one season as a Park Ranger, until deciding that it was time to apply her field experience in a broader conservation context.

Currently, Shauni is an Environmental Studies graduate student at the University of Montana, where she is working to complete dual certifications in Environmental Education and Natural Resource Conflict Resolution. Her research interests this summer will focus on wildlife movement, social justice and environmental conservation with the Heart of the Rockies Initiative, as well as completing a SWOT analysis of existing collaborative partnerships in Idaho and Montana with the National Forest Foundation. As a NFF Fellow, Shauni is looking forward to studying land conservation in greater depth while engaging with diverse stakeholders to assess the obstacles and opportunities of collaborative partnerships.

During her free time, she enjoys biking around Missoula collecting wildflowers, hiking in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, hunting on our public lands, and fly fishing with her husband, Cody.

Travis Anklam

I gained a passion for our public lands while living and working at Holden Village: a mining camp-turned-retreat center on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. After engaging with stakeholders involved in the cleanup of the Holden Mine, I began to see the valuable role collaboration can play in bettering the communities and landscapes that rely on our National Forests. Currently, I’m pursuing a M.S. in Environmental Studies and a Natural Resources Conflict Resolution Certificate at the University of Montana. My research focuses on how we evaluate collaborative conservation efforts and their environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural impacts. How can we better work together to benefit our landscapes and communities?

I’m honored and grateful to be serving as a Conservation Connect Fellow, where I will be working to help facilitate the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Working Group over the coming year. I’m especially excited to grow as a facilitator while supporting local collaborative conservation efforts through this Fellowship.

National Forest Foundation