The National Forest Foundation 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 strives 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 stakeholder engagement. The Conservation Connect Fellowship aims to build experience, knowledge, and skills to guide the next generation of collaborative leaders in the field of conservation.

Let's meet the 2024 cohort of Conservation Connect Fellows!

Adam Auerbach

  • University of Colorado - Boulder
  • Project: Increasing Collaborative Capacity through Technical Assistance and Community Outreach

Adam Auerbach is a conservation and public lands professional currently pursuing his graduate degree in Environmental and Natural Resources Policy through the CU Boulder Masters of the Environment program. Prior to graduate school, Adam's experience includes positions in interpretation, outreach, environmental education, and volunteer coordination through agencies like the National Park Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Boulder County Parks and Open Space. Adam is also a proud AmeriCorps alum with the Nevada Conservation Corps and has more recently developed and led AmeriCorps programming for the Mile High Youth Corps in Denver and managed internship and fellowship programs nationally for the US Fish and Wildlife Service with American Conservation Experience.

Adam's undergraduate degree is in Environmental Studies from Bates College in Maine, and in graduate school Adam is studying best practices in coalition building for conservation and recreation planning through his capstone project, an analysis of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Regional Partnerships Initiative. Adam is excited to serve as a Conservation Connect Fellow in support of NFF's Collaborative Capacity program. Adam is from Maryland originally, but has called Colorado home for eight years. Outside of school and work, you can find Adam hiking, backpacking, and camping on Colorado's public lands, playing soccer or ultimate frisbee, looking for moose, or baking muffins.

Fern Bromley

  • University of Arizona
  • Project: Rare and Invasive Species Ecology: A Background Study for Blumer's Dock Reintroduction in a Post-Invasive-Treatment Environment

Fern is a master’s student in Natural Resources at the University of Arizona in Tucson. After growing up in New York City and wanting to study something worth caring about for an entire career, they majored in Earth and Environmental Sciences at Boston University. A general fascination with plants and their ecology led to them working in an herbarium and measuring tree water use rates around campus. They relocated to Tucson, working for several seasons at Saguaro National Park on projects ranging from invasive grass removal to high-elevation forest monitoring. Fern spent a few months sampling long-term vegetation plots across the southern Colorado Plateau before starting graduate school.

For their thesis, Fern is using hydrologic and physiological models to evaluate the effects of vegetation management on ecosystem water availability and is interested in further researching interactions between climate change, community ecology, and plant function. For the Conservation Connect Fellowship, Fern will be working with Tonto National Forest in Arizona to monitor and restore a vulnerable plant species following removal of invasives.

Erin Budzyn

  • Michigan State University
  • Project: Understanding and Supporting Diversity of NFF Funding Recipients

Erin recently graduated with her master’s from Michigan State University and is pursuing her PhD in forestry this fall. She earned both of her bachelor degrees from Michigan State where she studied forestry and wildlife management. Born and raised in Michigan, Erin likes to spend her falls up north exploring the woods and hunting. Her passion for the outdoors is what led her back to college after taking a five-year break post high school and her passion for fire is what led her to pursue her PhD.

During her undergrad, Erin was able to work with a professor conducting research on the social side of forestry. This spurred her interest in understanding how landowners and the public can work with universities and government agencies to better foster understanding between the groups along with better conservation and stewardship. During her master’s she worked with the US Forest Service looking at displacement of recreators in four southern California National Forests and wildfire risk perception of visitors. Transitioning into her PhD, she will be working on filling gaps in knowledge regarding wildfire perceptions and social acceptability of wildfire management and mitigation.

Thuy-Tien Bui

  • University of California - Santa Barbara
  • Project: Where's the Water? Visualizing NFF's Water Initiatives within the Colorado River Basin and Beyond

Thuy-Tien is a Master of Environmental Science and Management candidate at UC Santa Barbara specializing in Conservation Planning with a focus in Strategic Environmental Communication. A lifelong Californian, Thuy-Tien grew up in Orange County and received her Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley. In this interdisciplinary program, she grew her passion for ecology, fieldwork, geospatial applications, and holistic land stewardship. She combines these interests in her work as a graduate researcher where she is monitoring oak woodland and shrubland vegetation communities post-fire.

Thuy-Tien hopes to inform management and conservation through effective collaboration and science. She is looking forward to mapping NFF watershed initiatives and exploring Low-Tech Process Based Restoration projects in the Colorado River Basin as part of her Conservation Connect practicum.

Julia Cavalli

  • California Polytechnic University - Humboldt
  • Project: Wildfire Resilience Fellowship

Julia is a Californian through and through, having started life in Los Angeles, stopping off at UC Berkeley for a BS in Conservation & Resource Studies, and finally settling among the redwoods of Humboldt County–her home for the last seven years. Most of that time has been spent immersed in local and regional-level forest health and wildfire resilience planning with connections to state, federal, and Tribal efforts. Working alongside such a wide range of partners has helped her to understand the necessity of collaboration and some of its challenges – reconciling landscape priorities, in particular. Julia is passionate about leveraging geospatial tools to guide collaboratives toward efficient and effective landscape-scale solutions. Her graduate work at California Polytechnic University, Humboldt, will inform the development of these tools by using fire behavior modeling to assess tradeoffs between landscape- and community-centric approaches to hazardous fuel reduction for wildland-urban interface community protection.

Through her work and her studies, Julia aims to usher in a new era of wildfire resilience-building that leverages cutting-edge technology and honors local knowledge. Her NFF Fellowship practicum is a phenomenal opportunity to further this mission through community engagement, analysis, and planning for cross-boundary fire risk reduction efforts in the Southern California Fireshed.

Manasseh Franklin

  • University of Wyoming
  • Project: Partnerships on Every Forest: Empowering Communities Through Building Effective Relationships

Manasseh Franklin is a graduate student at the University of Wyoming pursuing an MS in Environment, Natural Resources, and Society where she is focused on sustainable development in mountain communities and environmental social science. She came to this degree program after a 15-year journalism career where she wrote about glacial recession and climate change, travel, outdoor recreation, endangered species, and more. She also taught college-level writing, editing, environmental humanities, and professional development and has served as editor of several publications.

Manasseh has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Wyoming, as well as a BA in Professional Writing and International Studies from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. Since relocating from her native Pennsylvania hills to the peaks around Aspen in 2008, she has happily called the Rocky Mountains home and is excited to work with the Partnerships on Every Forest program at the NFF to help cultivate increased community and stakeholder engagement with National Forest management.

Grace Garrity

  • Ohio State University
  • Project: Southern Appalachian Subregion Resiliency Initiative: Telling the Story

Grace Garrity will be working within the Southern Appalachian Subregion, where she hopes to enrich storytelling and science communication, aligning with the mission of the Southern Appalachian Resilience Initiative. Hailing from Ohio, she carries a connection to the people and landscapes of the entire region. This fuels her enthusiasm for this fellowship as it blends her upbringing with her professional aspirations.

Currently pursuing a master's in Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University, Grace specializes in environmental impact assessment and public policy, with a dedicated focus on community and environmental policy. She received her Bachelor of Science from Ohio University, where she delved into wildlife management, working with moths, rodents, bats and wolves. Following her undergraduate studies, Grace gained invaluable experience working with the Montana Conservation Corp on a Women’s Fuel and Fire crew, fostering her appreciation for community and diligence, ultimately motivating her return to academia. Grace's career explorations have been rich and varied, yet her enduring passion lies in communication and engagement, making her eagerly anticipate her role as a science communicator with the Southern Appalachian Resilience Initiative.

Presently, she works with students at a local library branch in Columbus, Ohio. Beyond her professional pursuits, she finds solace in birdwatching, biking, and the perpetual quest for the perfect chocolate croissant in every town she visits.

Zak Kaletsch

  • Colorado State University
  • Project: New Mexico Wood for Life Initiative: Partnership Building and Coordination for Long-Term Benefits

Despite growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Zak has always had a strong connection to the outdoors thanks to many weekends spent exploring the Catskills. He went on to study marketing during his undergraduate studies, but after two years working in the advertising industry realized it was not for him. Since then he has lived in Oregon, Utah, Maine, California, and now Colorado, where he has worked a variety of seasonal roles in outdoor recreation and conservation.

Zak is pursuing his master's degree in Conservation Leadership at Colorado State University. Much of his work prior to the program was with land trusts and other small community-based conservation organizations, which he hopes to continue after he graduates. He is especially passionate about how conservation can be used as a tool to increase access and inclusivity in the outdoors. In addition to completing this Conservation Connect Fellowship, he will also be working with the Eagle Valley Land Trust this summer on his Capstone Project, focusing on Indigenous inclusion.

Carly Knudsen

  • University of Utah
  • Project: Inclusive and Accessible Communications around NFF Grant Opportunities

Carly is currently pursuing her MS in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at the University of Utah. Growing up in the rural community of Salmon, ID, Carly learned from a young age the importance and benefit of public lands and nature. With parents who worked in small-town natural resource conservation and federal wildland fire management, grandparents with deep ranching history, and working the past decade in the commercial wilderness guiding industry, she has also learned the complications and nuances that go along with the advocacy and protection of these spaces.

Carly is interested in the human dimensions of natural resources, particularly how public natural spaces impact health, wellbeing, and quality of life for communities, and where access issues and disparities exist. She is excited to be contributing as a Conservation Connect fellow on a project that is working to expand inclusivity and diversity of funding opportunities within NFF. In her free time, Carly tries to balance her adrenaline fixes of kayaking, skiing, mountain biking, and ice hockey with enjoying art, music, food, hipster coffee and beer, mastering the public transportation system, and people-watching during her urban dog walks.

Sasha Mader

  • University of Utah
  • Project: Partnerships on Every Forest: Empowering Communities Through Building Effective Relationships

Sasha C. Mader is a PhD student in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Her research interests focus on situating and leveraging recreation and leisure to support social and environmental justice. She’s also interested in investigating narratives associated with recreation pursuits, education, and professions. Specifically, she hopes to understand how individual and shared narratives may influence place identity, pro-environmental behavior, and environmental policy. She hopes to help create safe and equitable pathways to recreation that promote wellness for people and the environment.

Sasha grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and received her BS in Human Services from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Her first career was in hospitality, where she met her husband, and his military service required them to move between Virginia Beach and San Diego multiple times. Together, they traversed the country, exploring public lands, parks, and waterways. After her husband’s military service, Sasha attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where she received her MS in Recreation Management. She is a surfer who landed in the mountains, but luckily, she enjoys long walks on the beach and in the woods. She loves hiking, fishing, and camping with her partner and son—and mostly loves showing him the beauty in the natural world. She will soon begin the second year of her PhD program and hopes to seek a career that advocates for conservation, responsible recreation, and equitable access to our National Forests and Grasslands.

Ian Rose

  • Indiana University - Bloomington
  • Project: Reimagined Visitor Experience: Creating a Modern Visitor Center That Showcases Midewin's Unique History

Ian is a graduate student at Indiana University - Bloomington pursuing a dual degree in Public Affairs and Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Management. Prior to attending IU, Ian served 5 years and 2 tours of duty as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, first in Everett, WA, and then in Manama, Bahrain. Ian earned his BA in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology from Michigan State University in 2017.

The National Forests and National Parks in the Pacific Northwest were a major driving force in his decision to return to graduate school and pursue a degree in environmental science. Ian’s goal is to combine his graduate and undergraduate degrees, military experience, and work as a Conservation Connect Fellow to one day serve as a District Ranger for the Forest Service or Park Manager for the Department of Interior. When not working, Ian spends his time doing wildlife and cultural photography, travelling the US and abroad, or relaxing at home with his two cats.

National Forest Foundation