I am a Master of Earth and Environmental Resources Management (MEERM) student working with Dr. John Kupfer as my advisor. I’m on the internship track and for my master’s project I served as the Land Conservation Intern for Congaree Land Trust (CLT) in summer 2022. In that role, I assisted with a variety of tasks to support the organization’s work, but my main focus was the Edisto River Basin Project. The river and basin ecosystem provides areas for outdoor recreation and habitat for fish and wildlife, including rare and threatened species, but these ecosystems are threatened by water withdrawal, pollution, dams, and urban sprawl, so the goal of the project is to further conservation progress through the creation of conservation easements. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a private landowner and an organization such as CLT which protects the land from development in perpetuity. I used ArcGIS Pro to score and rank properties based on various data layers relating to conservation value, development threat, and grant funding opportunities, which resulted in a list of the top easement candidates in the region. I successfully defended in March and am now graduating!
I did my undergrad at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA where I majored in ecology and conservation. I became interested in conservation planning, particularly through a course I took my senior year in Island Ecology and Evolution in which I wrote a feasibility report on conservation actions for the endangered Perdido Key beach mouse. I’ve always loved working with maps and data, so after graduating, I wanted to pursue an interest I hadn’t had a chance to yet, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and I took an introductory course through a university in my hometown. I decided I wanted to continue honing my skills in GIS and ecology through graduate school, and when I discovered internship-based programs I knew I wanted to do that. I was impressed with the flexible curriculum and course offerings in MEERM, and after talking with Dr. Kupfer, who shares my interests in landscape ecology and using GIS for conservation planning, I chose to come to USC. I’ve been able to expand my knowledge and skills in areas of interest I’d discovered in undergrad, like stakeholder engagement by taking courses in Public Data Analysis and Community-Engaged Science, planning and management through the course Resource Management and Environmental Impact Assessment, coastal ecology by taking Coastal Zone Management, and species distribution modeling by taking a physical geography seminar with Dr. Kupfer. I actually drew on my new species distribution modeling skills to get a second summer internship with South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) in their Heritage Trust program!
After graduating, my goal has always been to pursue a career in conservation with a non-profit or government agency. I just recently was offered a job as an Environmental Specialist in the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. I’ll be working on data management for the Statewide Ecosystem Assessment of Coastal and Aquatic Resources (SEACAR).