National Forest Foundation

New NFF Staff: Meet Dania

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I grew up in South Florida, where experiencing the outdoors with my family revolved around what was accessible in the Miami metropolitan area, like city parks and beaches. Even with fairly limited access to outdoor spaces, I developed a passion for nature at a young age, fostered by parents who encouraged me to explore what I loved and teachers that recognized the importance of getting their students out of the classroom to learn in new ways.

Most of those early experiences outside of the classroom involved visiting the Everglades and Biscayne Bay, where I learned about the critical watersheds that provide a home for family, friends, and wildlife. From then on I was eager to understand the role I could play in protecting these critical ecosystems.

I studied Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida, a degree that gave me the opportunity to expand what it meant to experience the outdoors and discover public lands that I had never heard of before. My first trip to a National Forest came shortly after my 20th birthday: a visit to Ocala National Forest with one of my favorite professors, where I began to better understand the importance of these outdoor spaces and how communities can engage with them.

During my time at Florida, I found that what I was most interested in and excelled in were the roles that required me to step away from the field and engage with people. I was a bit surprised, but I embraced it and soon realized that my place in this field was to connect others to the environment, and empower them to take action.

When I decided to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, I was seeking a Master’s program that would complement my science-heavy education where I could focus on understanding social and economic systems, and how people within these systems perceive and react to environmental issues. Once I graduated, I pursued professional experiences where I could practice building partnerships with the private sector, finding ways to help businesses meet their environmental goals through public-private partnerships.

These experiences led me to Southern California, which quickly felt like home. I found myself eager to return to my roots in conservation to find ways to protect the outdoor spaces that make life in Southern California so special. I am so excited to be a part of the National Forest Foundation team where my role is to build partnerships that protect Southern California National Forests and connect communities that make up my new home.


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