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2018 – Fourth Biennial Student Congress on Public Policy for Land Management

The Public Lands Foundation along with the BLM in Oregon and the BLM national office held the fourth biennial Student Congress on Public Land Management in Baker City, Oregon between August 22-25, 2018. The themes for the Student Congress was the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the National Trails Act.


Watch this short video from the 4th Student Congress!

Field Trip to Minam State Recreation Area, Wallowa River, Oregon

  • Students by pipe fence they built

  • Students rebuilding picnic table

  • Rebuilt picnic table

  • Wooden rocking chair

  • Pipe fence and gabions near completion

  • Gary Marsh and Ed Shepard helping move pipe for fence

  • Minam State Recreation Area where project took place; Wallowa River, Oregon

Participant Selection

After a competitive application and review process, 29 students were selected to participate in the 4th Biennial Student Congress. Here is a list of the participants and the colleges/universities that they are attending, followed by the biographies of each participant.

Name College
Devani Antuma Calvin College
Rebecca Boslough Univ. of Montana
Erinn Drage Univ. of Ottawa
Mathias Fostvedt Oregon State University
Brewster Johnson Univ. of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
AnnaFaith Jorgensen Student Congress Alum
Elyse Kats Arizona State Univ.
Kelleen Lanagan Penn State/NPS
Dave Laufenberg Montana State Univ.
Emma Lord Univ. of N. Dak/NPS Intern
James Major Northern Arizona Univ.
Andreas Martinez Univ. of Oregon
Melissa Martinez Univ. of Southern California
Clara Miller Univ. of Arizona
Faith Morgan Univ. of Florida
Rebekah Mullen Texas A&M/Texas Brigades
Natasha Myhal Univ. of Colorado, Boulder
Chelsea Phillippe Univ. of Montana
Ashley Phillips St. Johns/BLM Intern
Hannah Podzorski CO School of Mines
Will Rice Penn State Univ.
Kali Richardson Univ. of Florida
Madelyn Smith Louisiana State Univ.
Jessy Stevenson Univ. of Montana
Christopher Torres Boise State Univ.
Samantha Unruh Univ. of Utah/BLM Intern
Andre Virden Univ. of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
Becca Wheeler Calvin College
Kim Young Student Congress Alum

Click on the names below to learn more about the participants!

  • Devani Antuma

    I am a senior at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids University. I was raised in the Holland, Michigan, home of the Tulip Time festival and the lakeshore. My house is surrounded by 14 acres of beech-maple forest, and was a short 2-minute bike ride from the shores of Lake Michigan. As a child, I spent most of my days outside making forts, climbing trees, and making friends with all of the squirrels. I was blessed to spend so many of my days surrounded by nature. As I grew up, my childhood influenced me to spend most of my time outdoors, especially when I needed to regenerate.

    Because of my developing love for plants and natural spaces, I have been pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies. Having done botanical research this past summer, my main interest has become ecology, primarily focused around plant communities. My internship this summer as a Naturalist for Ottawa County Parks has confirmed my passion for outdoor, informal education, and I look forward to honing that passion and skill. As a child, I was privileged to spend much of my time outdoors, and I want to be able to pass on that passion to the upcoming generations. Hopefully, my future occupation will encompass those passions, either ecology, outdoor education, or both. I plan to work for the next few years, gaining experience in the field of biology, research and outdoor education. From this, I plan to continue my education to get my Masters of Biology, with my emphasis decided after working in different fields. From there, I hope to become an influencer for the environment in the lives of children. Fueling a passion for the environment, and the protection of nature, in the hearts of the upcoming generations is so important. Our world will need their passion.

  • Rebecca Boslough

    Becca is from Helena, Montana. She graduated from the University of Montana in 2014 with a B.Sc. in natural resource conservation. During her time at UM, she was a leader in the UM Wilderness Association and student government. Becca explored her passion for conservation through positions at The Wilderness Society, the Glacier Institute, and the US Forest Service. She worked for Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in both Montana and Washington, DC, and she was selected as a 2013 Truman Scholar for leadership and public service. Following graduation, she moved to Germany as a Congress Bundestag (CBYX) Fellow, where she had language training and completed research on micro plastic pollution in the Baltic Sea. She then worked on climate and zero waste initiatives as an Energy Corps AmeriCorps member in Missoula, Montana. Last year Becca completed a Truman Albright Fellowship with the US Forest Service Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Office in Washington, DC.

    Becca received the Marshall Scholarship, which provides the opportunity to pursue two masters’ degrees in the United Kingdom. She is currently finishing an MSc in climate change and environmental policy at the University of Leeds, where she is researching the impact of climate change on smallholder farms in Tanzania. Next year she will attend the University of Cambridge for an MPhil in conservation leadership. Her experience at the US Forest Service and current graduate studies in England have refinedher interest in understanding how and why different conservation approaches might succeed, specifically collaborative and cross-jurisdictional resource management. She is eager to return to the US to work on the conservation and public lands issues that inspired her to pursue an education in the environmental field. Ultimately, she wants to work in either a federal land management agency or for a conservation non-profit, taking an intersectional approach to identifying policy and programmatic solutions that benefit local communities, protect ecological integrity, and foster resilient working landscapes. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, learning new languages, lindy hopping, and hiking as much as possible.

  • Erinn Drage

    Erinn Drage holds an honors Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Originally from the east coast of Canada, Erinn has been an active contributor to parks and protected areas policy and public education for years, working with both Parks Canada and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In 2017, she was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Under 25 Environmentalists for her work on a nature-culture documentary based in the remote nature of the Northwest Territories. She is currently a Wilderness Fellow with the Society for Wilderness Stewardship and is working on wilderness character monitoring in Sierra and Inyo National Forests.

    Erinn has a keen interest in public lands policy and protected area governance structures and is eager to continue learning about different approaches to effectively protecting nature. She believes that intact wilderness landscapes and healthy ecosystems are not only vital for environmental, economic, and social success, but are also important for us all to admire and enjoy the natural world. Her passion for outdoor recreation has inspired much of her work and has led to big adventures all over the world, including guiding in the Arctic and Antarctic.

  • Matthias Fostvedt

    I was born and raised in the Wood River Valley in central Idaho. Growing up in this unique valley was the major reason I chose to study water management. For years, I worked in landscaping, using diverted water to turn the desert green. Later, I transitioned north to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, where I worked as a river guide for several years. Working on both sides of this divide showed me the value of these competing water uses in the arid West.

    Pursuing this interest brought me to Oregon, where I’m now halfway-finished with a concurrent J.D./M.S. degree in Water Resources Policy & Management. My thesis is evaluating the local governance institutions that tackle small dam removals. Unlike large dams, small dams have no definitive governing institution that motivates and structures the evaluation of dams for removal or maintenance. Despite this shortcoming, over 1,400 small dams have been removed in the U.S., over half of which have occurred within the last two decades. These dams have been removed to achieve a variety of objectives, most commonly including ecosystem restoration and addressing liability of aging infrastructure. These projects are evaluated and/or removed under a spectrum of collaborative to litigious conditions, and it is not clear what institutional conditions lead to different processes and outcomes.

    While most of my attention lately has been focused on watershed restoration, I am open to any career in water resources management. I enjoy time spent in the Courtroom, so my immediate goal is to gain experience as an attorney. Water is an incredible field because there are so many different career paths where one can make a tangible difference. I look forward to finding my niche in this meaningful field.

  • Brewster Johnson

    I was born and raised  in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and didn’t leave until I turned 18 and went to college at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. There I studied Natural Resource Planning with an emphasis in Social and Policy Sciences. I also double minored in Soil Science and Sustainable Energy. I want to take my education and my job experience as a GIS Technician, a Groundwater Research Assistant, and a Urban Stream Restoration Lead to be an Urban Planner specializing in land and water conservation, park and open space design, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, I would also be extremely happy as a conservation planner or a land acquisition and management specialist for a rural municipality or a land trust.

  • AnnaFaith Jorgensen

    AnnaFaith grew up exploring the woodlands of Carolina, Rhode Island. She’s grateful to her parents for encouraging her curiosity in the natural world. Some of her favorite places near home are the South County Bike Path and Narragansett Town Beach. She graduated from the Greene School in 2015 and spent the following two years studying Natural History and Ecology at Prescott College in Arizona. The canyons and deserts of the west further inspired her passion for conserving public lands. In spring 2017 she traveled to the Prescott College Kino Bay Center in Sonora, Mexico, to learn about island biogeography.

    After returning to the United States, AnnaFaith moved to Bar Harbor, Maine, to serve as the Student Conservation Association (SCA) raptor intern in Acadia National Park. She worked to educate the public about nesting peregrine falcons and migrating hawks in Acadia. She enjoyed exploring Acadia and took classes at College of the Atlantic in spring 2018. She’s currently serving as an SCA visitor services intern at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham, Massachusetts. AnnaFaith plans to work in public lands stewardship, as a government employee or representative of a non-profit conservation organization. She attended the Third Student Congress on Public Lands in 2016 and found it a formative experience in her education. She looks forward to Baker City for the chance to gain perspective from other students and to advocate for the protection of Wild and Scenic Rivers and the National Trails System.

  • Elyse Kats

    I grew up in a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas, named Overland Park. However, much of my time spent growing up was in western Kansas with my grandparents or camping in southern Missouri with my parents. Later, in high school, my family moved to a ranch in a small town in Kansas named Bucyrus. Spending time in the outdoors, and learning about the land growing up contributed to my environmental passions that I have today. I went to Blue Valley High School, and after graduating in 2016, I began attending Arizona State University to major in sustainability. I chose ASU because of its great sustainability program, and because of the opportunities I see in the west for increased sustainability in land use and other environmental matters.

    I am two years into my Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability with a track in policy and governance, and I am double minoring in Parks and Protected Area Management and Socio-Legal Studies. I will be graduating in the Spring of 2019, after which I hope to attend law school to pursue sustainable law. It is my goal to become an environmental lawyer or policy maker, focusing specifically on land and/ or water rights. Studying in Arizona, I have learned a lot about these issues, as they are very prevalent in our community. Thus, I hope to be able to create a better future through policy in these areas.

    I am excited to participate in the Fourth Biennial Student Congress on Public Lands because I am very interested in both the The Public Lands Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management. I hope through this opportunity I can learn more about these organizations and the issues that we research and debate. I am also excited to learn more about what my future career in public lands and policy could look like.

  • Kelleen Lanagan

    Kelleen Lanagan is originally from State College, Pennsylvania, where she attended Penn State twice. She received her Bachelors of Science in Geoscience and her Masters of Education in Curriculum and instruction. While leading youth field trip programs through a local wetland and teaching high school earth science, Kelleen found a strong enthusiasm for science communication.

    Kelleen is a Wild and Scenic River fellow working with the National Park Service in the Washington DC office. Over the last year, she has worked on community engagement, providing general supports for river managers, and water resources. She has been thoroughly enjoying her work and is excited to continue finding ways to support rivers and public lands by promoting recreation and stewardship. In the future, she plans to pursue work in land and water resource management resources, especially as it relates to natural hazards.

  • David Laufenberg

    I grew up near Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. It’s a small town that’s been rooted in agriculture for the past 150 years or so. Geographically, the town is located at the eastern edge of the Driftless Area, a reference to the fact that the most recent glacial events did not sculpt the region’s landscape. My father and I hunted together at a young age, and I fished for walleye and perch in Lake Michigan while on trips to the north country during the summer months. A well-known public university was down the road from my home town, so I set my sights on one day being a student where Aldo Leopold once taught seminars.

    While at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (B.S. Conservation Biology), I founded and was the first president of the Students for Bird Conservation. A unique study abroad strengthened my interest in the intersection between society and the environment. On the day of graduation, I shared lunch with my parents and then drove to Montana to begin working with the Wildlife Conservation Society as a field technician counting birds and sampling vegetation. That fall, I lived largely in the Custer Gallatin National Forest in southwestern Montana where I tallied over 1,000 Golden Eagles as part of a long-term project with Hawkwatch International. This seasonal technician lifestyle continued for nearly a decade with a number of public and private entities prior to earning my secondary educator’s teaching license, and working as an educator in Yellowstone National Park (YNP). While in YNP, I developed and taught a seminar entitled, “Yellowstone’s Conservation Legacy” whereby I facilitated daily interactions between YNP managers and students. Although I had always enjoyed my time outdoors, it was during these years in Yellowstone that I began making a closer study of public lands (their designations, histories and management objectives). I also realized that graduate work related to public lands would strengthen my voice as a conservation leader.

    My graduate research began last year at Montana State University (MSU) as part of the Landscape Biodiversity Lab advised by Dr. Andrew Hansen. My efforts are focused on the conservation of GYE whitebark pine in public lands. The pine provides significant ecosystem services including snow retention that lends to late-season water for rivers. Unfortunately, the majority of mature whitebark pine in the GYE have died over the past two decades. The goal of my graduate study is to investigate pine performance as it relates to local environmental gradients (water, elevation, etc.). In order to carry out research across public lands, I collaborate with professionals on the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee (GYCC). The GYCC is a collection of managers from BLM, USFWS, NPS and USFS.

    As diverse experiences in public lands continue to shape my voice, I will continue to speak strongly and clearly about public lands, their value and the rich history of stewardship that has laid the foundation for our shared present and future. My professional ambitions are to split time between field and office work as an educator and scientist that facilitates meaningful conservation projects.

  • Emma Lord

    Emma grew up in the small town of Greenville, NY on the northern edge of the Catskill Mountains. Growing up, she enjoyed being outside, whether that was playing soccer and softball on school or club teams, hiking in the nearby mountains or just exploring the woods and streams near her house. Her love for and interest in the natural world led her to pursue an education in environmental studies. Not having a particular area of the natural sciences that she wanted to focus on, she chose environmental studies to gain a holistic understanding and appreciation for the chemistry, biology, geology, and ecology that control natural systems.


    Attending a small environmental liberal arts college in rural Vermont (Green Mountain College) enabled her to spend lots of time studying in a natural laboratory. She was also able to continue her other passions by playing Division III collegiate soccer and softball. The summer before her senior year, Emma was selected as a geology intern for the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program hosted by Western Kentucky University. For twelve weeks, Emma worked closely with a faculty mentor in monitoring and studying the relationship between land use changes and water quality in the unique karst environment around Bowling Green, Kentucky. After crawling around in caves all summer and working on a research project that had real world implications, she decided that graduate school in the field of geology was something that she wanted to pursue. Emma earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College the following year.

    For her graduate studies, Emma was interested in geology, but more specifically geomorphology and surficial processes. She attended the University of North Dakota where she used rock dating techniques to study ice fluctuations and erosion in the Transantarctic Mountains of Antarctica. While she did not get the chance to do field work in Antarctica, she was able to travel to the Himalayas twice, once as a participant in a geology field course and once as the teaching assistant for the course. During her graduate studies, Emma also served as a teaching assistant for various geology laboratory classes and field trips. She earned her M.S. in Geology from the University of North Dakota, with a concentration in geomorphology.

    Emma is currently serving as a Wild and Scenic Rivers Fellow with the National Park Service through Conservation Legacy. She works with the Interagency Wild and Scenic Rivers Coordinating Council to develop publications, tools, and other guidance materials about Wild and Scenic Rivers for transportation and infrastructure project proponents and river managers. Emma also works with several Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers and a river in Maine that is being studied for possible Wild and Scenic designation. Her fellowship work with rivers has also led her to join the River Management Society and serve as their Northeast Chapter President.

  • James Major

    James Major is an incoming first-year Master of Science in Environmental Sciences and Policy student in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. James graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Oregon ’17, earning a B.S. in geography with concentrations in environmental systems and geographic information science. Many of his research interests focus on aquatic and riparian systems and their management. He is interested in native and invasive species interactions and management, passive and active floodplain restoration comparison, and livestock grazing solutions in riparian areas.

    James has worked parts of four summers as a research assistant on the Middle Fork of the John Day River in eastern Oregon monitoring restoration efforts in the Middle Fork Intensively Monitored Watershed. He has also served as a field research assistant on projects on the Sandy and Rogue Rivers in Oregon. James performed GIS and Structure from Motion tasks for several principal researchers on a number of projects when he was not in the field. Selected projects include making Orthophotos of the Columbia River Gorge using historical aerial photography collected prior to the completion of the Bonneville Lock and Dam, and helping identify and map rivers on the Nationwide Rivers Inventory that may be excellent candidates for further protections under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

    James grew up in Charles City County, Virginia and lived in Fredericksburg, VA and Charleston, SC before venturing out to Oregon. In his free time, he enjoys fishing, rooting for most of the D.C. sports teams, and sitting on the front porch doing nothing on warm sunny afternoons.

  • Andreas Martinez

    Andreas grew up in Eugene Oregon where at an early age he was introduced to the joys and terrors of white water kayaking. Since then Andreas has made it his goal to pursue a career protecting our wild native habitats. Andreas is a senior at the University of Oregon where he studies Environmental Studies with a focus on native prairie systems. Andreas is pursuing career in habitat restoration and management in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Melissa Martinez

    Born in Los Angeles, home for Melissa is both LA and central Arizona, having always grown up under the sun with her six siblings, neighbors, friends and many, many pets. Her love for the outdoors grew from her backyard adventures under the guava, plum and mandarin trees, growing even more after serving in the Nevada Conservation Corp at Great Basin National Park.  With a recent degree in Environmental Studies and a public policy concentration from the University of Southern California, Melissa is passionate about public lands conservation and resource redistribution as a driving force for change. She has worked to help create resource channels for disadvantaged communities as both an outreach worker with migrant farmworkers and a leader in local refugee resettlement. Her work with the Centennial Act at a policy advocacy firm inspired her to continue advocating for public lands through multi-level stakeholder engagement.In having the opportunity to work with so many incredible individuals, Melissa feels the importance of storytelling as a tool for connection to both people and the outdoors.  Through a partnership with the US Forest Service and the Hispanic Access Foundation, Melissa is a Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Resource fellow, working to create strategic partnerships and collaboration with Latinx communities and river organizations throughout the year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Currently studying for her GRE, Melissa will be gaining more on the ground experience before heading to the policy sector to work on public land access issues. When she’s not at the Forest Service DC office, you can find her climbing at the local gym, learning to paddle on all the rivers, camping about or walking the streets of Mt Pleasant with her dog, Snow.

  • Clara Miller

    I am currently enrolled at the University of Arizona and I am a junior majoring in Natural Resources Range Management I am also a 4th generation rancher who wants to continue in the family business. I grew up and worked at the Elkhorn Ranch, a guest ranch my great-grandparents started in 1946. A guest ranch is something that many people these days have never heard of – we are a working ranch where we raise a large horse herd. Our main income source is horseback riding for our guests who typically come to the ranch to stay for a week or more. It is located at the base of the Baboquiviri Mountains fifty miles southwest of Tucson. The ranch has been a really wonderful place to grow up and has inspired me to gain skills needed to help manage the land that makes up our family’s ranch and other ranches and areas such as the neighboring Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Through the ranch I have met so many people who are interested in the open range and conservation. The ranch has also exposed me to the beauty of the rangelands of the southwest. Although we do have private land we lease a large portion of our ranch from the state of Arizona, we have a Bureau of Land Management grazing lease, and recreation special use permits. All of these different land use specificities have exposed me to the many multiple use aspects surrounding public land.

    We are primarily a horseback riding oriented guest ranch and as such we have a very large horse herd. Most of the horses are born and raised at the ranch. Our herd of about 115 horses is rotated between pastures that consist of both private and public land. My dad works hard to figure out which pastures to put horses into so that the horses benefit while not overgrazing the land. My dad is constantly observing the plant communities on our ranch, implementing rotational grazing systems, working with NRCS, and conducting conservation projects such as mesquite thinning and erosion control. I hope to gain skills and knowledge so that I can play a bigger role in helping with this management over time. This is why I chose to major in range management because I believe that this degree will help me to manage both the public and private land that we depend on.

    My unique experience has allowed me to establish a strong foundation in regards to land management techniques in a real life setting. Both of my parents have been very involved in conservation work and have received an award from the AZ section of the Society for Range Management for their land management practices as well as being founding members of the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance which focuses on erosion control and prescribed fire. I hope to follow in their footsteps and continue to help to preserve the land that we depend on while also helping with conservation efforts to protect our rangelands. I am studying natural resource management because I know that the education I receive will help me to ensure that the land is well looked after. I think this education is especially important in the current political and social climate in the U.S. concerning the best way to manage our natural resources and how public lands should be handled. My goal is to be able to manage the land so that current and future generations will be able to continue to experience the beauty of the Southwest at my family’s ranch. I would also like to learn these land management skills so that I can help with conservation efforts in the rangelands throughout AZ, specifically in the Altar Valley near Tucson AZ.

    While in college I am trying to take an active role in rangeland monitoring and conservation work. I do part time work for some University of Arizona professors so that I can gain real field experience and apply the concepts I have learned in my classes. I am also
    currently Vice President of the University of Arizona’s range management club, Tierra Seca, for the upcoming 2018/19 school year. This past year was my first year as President and I really enjoyed the experience which is why I wanted to continue to have a leadership role in the club by volunteering for the Vice President position for the upcoming school year. I have learned so much through the opportunities this position has provided me and I hope to continue to take an active role in the club for the remainder of my time at the U of A.

  • Faith Morgan

    I am a 20 year-old third year student from Miami, FL studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation (WEC) with a focus in Wildlife Management at the University of Florida. I remember being 4 years old and taking the milk from my fridge, pouring it in a clear plastic bowl in an attempt to make my way to outside-always being stopped by my angry mother who was questioning my decisions to use her “good Tupperware” to feed cats. Then being 7 years old and bringing home cups filled with beetles and dirt- having tanks filled with mysterious creatures that I found during recess at school. Then, on many occasions, I brought home lost animals that I found when walking home. I have always had a weird attraction to the outdoors and all that dwelled in it. In elementary and middle school, I was known for always reading books about animals. I could name any dog, cat, cow, pig breed I saw and could tell anyone, anything, about most animals. I had hopes to become a Veterinarian (because I thought that was the only thing you could do when you loved animals) until my sophomore year of college. After working as a Vet tech for about 1 year, I discovered that was not the career path for me- as I found it to be extremely boring and I hated working with blood. My advisor introduced me to the WEC major and I fell in love. On the management track, I have taken environmental policy and law classes that have sparked my curiosity to possibly become an environmental lawyer. Also, my management coursework has exposed me to thinking about attending graduate school and pursuing wildlife management.


  • Rebekah Mullen

    As my dad often likes to say, my family has been in Stonewall County since the wheel fell off the wagon. My father and uncle operate Mullen & Sons Water Well Service. My mother works at the local pharmacy as a Pharmacy Technician. We have ranched in Peacock, Texas, for the past 19 years. I grew up on a ‘hard work and clean living’ philosophy. I was born in Woodward, Oklahoma on June 4, 1999. The number one song in the US that day was Livin’ La Vida Locaby Ricky Martin and I may not be into superstition or voodoo dolls, but I have lived a pretty crazy life.

    In my 19 years, I have wrecked 4 vehicles, broken two major bones, and caused a ridiculous amount of gray hairs. However, in between my more destructive life events, I read constantly. I have been known to read 5 or 6 books at a time. When I’m in need of a calming activity, I turn to knitting and classical music. Now, I’m not trying to brag, but I can knit one mean…tangled…mess. Anytime I get a chance, I’m liable to be found horseback, whether it be for leisure or work. I also enjoy nature photography. Capturing God’s Great Outdoors brings peace to my soul and a feeling of spiritual closeness with Him.

    My love for the outdoors has led me to pursue a career in Wildlife Biology. Although I have held many odd jobs throughout the summers of my youth (babysitting, spraying mesquites, housekeeping), the highlight of my work experience came in the summer of 2015. Thanks to my involvement with the Texas Brigades and other wildlife exploration opportunities, I was hired as a Research Assistant for the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch. The ranch itself is in Roby, Texas, but I was stationed in Benjamin, Texas. My job was to monitor and record the location, mortality, and nest success of 25 blue quail as part of the Scaled Quail Relocation Project. 400 blue, or scaled, quail were trapped on other ranches and moved to two locations just outside of Benjamin. The birds wore radio collars that emit a signal that is tracked with an antenna. I worked for RPQRR from May to August of 2016, and although that is a very short time, I quickly figured out Wildlife Biology was the path for me.

    My parents always taught me to lend a helping hand, not so they’d turn around and help, but simply because you’re capable. Helping the people in my community has always been important to me and in my senior year of high school I was able to help my local nursing home develop their Music Memory program, a program designed to help elderly people in nursing homes/people with Alzheimer’s recall the days of their youth by using music they loved, a project very close to my heart.

    I have always dreamt of attending Texas A&M and I have finally made it. I am currently studying Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences with the hope of pursuing one of two plans. I will either attend graduate school to get my Master’s in Ag Leadership and Development and become an Ag teacher or I will obtain a Master’s in Wildlife Ecology and go on to pursue a doctorate and attempt to become a professor.

  • Natasha Myhal

    Natasha is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, grew up in Parma Hts., Ohio. She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in American Indian Studies and Environmental Studies from the University of Minnesota, Morris is 2015 and with her Master of Arts in Indigenous Studies from the University of Kansas in 2017. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Comparative Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, with an area of concentration in Geography. Community is a central part of her research, and academics, which has given her the opportunity to develop an inspiring community network.     Natasha wants to build relationships and work alongside Indigenous communities to advance tribal sovereignty.

    As an Anishinaabe woman, she is driven by her passion for Indigenous environmental issues. At CU, she is focusing on two main research areas: The first entails looking at the parallels between Indigenous studies and Indigenous geographies to explore connections between theories of space/place and the cultural practices and values of Indigenous peoples. This research interest seeks to further Natasha’s study of Indigenous ethnobotany, attending specifically to the role of place as construed by Indigenous communities. Her second research focus examines U.S. policies for harvesting medicinal plants on federal lands as a means for understanding more broadly the relationships between Indigenous peoples and settler colonial states.

    Her career goals are to become a professor and to continue her aspirations in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service. Natasha’s research will draw upon her Anishinaabe teachings, her background in ethnobotany, and her graduate training in comparative and geographical approaches to Indigenous nations and their lands.

  • Chelsea Phillipe

    Chelsea Phillippe grew up on a family farm in the Midwest, surrounded by private lands displaying “No Trespassing” signs. After graduating from the University of Nebraska with a B.S. in Environmental Studies, and a minor in Anthropology, she moved West to learn from life experiences- especially those uniquely offered on Public Lands. She explored, recreated, and worked in Wilderness, National Recreation Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Conservation Areas, National Monuments, Wild & Scenic Rivers, and other areas. Over the years her land ethic strengthened as she transitioned from outdoor student to educator and from recreationist to public lands advocate. To reinforce her knowledge and ability to ‘give back’ to public lands Chelsea earned a graduate certificate in Wilderness Management from the University of Montana and is perusing an M.S. in Resource Conservation. Working with the public as a guide, educator, and wilderness ranger on public lands has reinforced the importance of building connections and respect between the land itself, its management agencies, and the public. Her career goals encompass strengthening public land appreciation and protections, by continuing to connect diverse public land users with land managing agencies, while simultaneously instilling stewardship opportunities and responsibilities.

  • Ashley Phillips

    From western horseback riding to hiking and fishing, Ashley’s passion for nature began at a young age. She grew up in Des Moines, Iowa where she worked five seasons in a corn field. In May 2017, she graduated from the College of St. Benedict | St. John’s University in Minnesota. While field labs within the University’s 3,000 acres of Arboretum drew her to major in Environmental Studies, she also enjoyed policy and was elected as Sustainability Representative for student government.

    After studying a semester in South Africa, she interned in Washington, D.C. with the Department of Interior’s Office of Environmental Policy & Compliance. Following this experience, her interest in public land soared. She completed her senior thesis on NEPA’s public participation process, and after graduation she returned to D.C. with BLM’s Division of Natural Resources. She gained additional public land policy experience at a non-profit/research organization and on Capitol Hill with the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. Ashley is currently working with BLM’s Eagle Lake Field Office as a Planning & Environmental Specialist, and in her spare time enjoys exploring trails in northern California.


  • Hannah Podzorski

    Hannah Podzorski grew up in Waukesha, WI.  Her love of science and environmental conservation motivated her to pursue a degree in geology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received undergraduate degrees in Geological Engineering and Geoscience, as well as a certificate in Environmental Studies. She continued her education and received a Masters of Hydrology at the Colorado School of Mines. She served as an intern at the U.S. Geological Survey between her undergraduate and graduate work. For her Master’s thesis work she worked closely with the National Park Service, and studied long-term trends in water quality in a high alpine watershed in Rocky Mountain National Park. Her interests revolve around the conservation and protection of water resources.

  • Will Rice

    Will Rice is a graduate student within Penn State University’s Protected Areas Research Collaborative. He earned a Bachelors degree in Natural Resource Economics and Policy from Clemson University, becoming the institution’s first-ever Udall Scholar in 2015. He has previously served as a Directorate Fellow with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaska Region and with the National Park Service at Wind Cave, Yellowstone, Cape Cod, Missouri River, and Grand Canyon national parks. His current research focuses on personal and social outcomes associated with public lands recreation and the impacts of protected areas’ national and international significance. His projects are primarily set in large Western national parks—including Grand Teton and Death Valley—however he also has a long-standing reputation for dragging friends to national battlefields and historic sites across middle America.

  • Kali Richardson

    Kali Richardson grew up in the Ozarks, where she currently works as a botany technician on the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project. She has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Conservation and Management from the University of Arizona (UA). While attending UA, Kali completed the Doris Duke Conservation Scholar’s Program, where she had the opportunity to do field work with UA and intern with a local policy-oriented conservation NGO, the Sonoran Institute. She is glad to expand her knowledge on public policy by learning about the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act at the Fourth Biennial Student Congress on Public Lands.

  • Madelyn Smith

    Madelyn Smith grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana. She is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University in natural resource ecology and management with a concentration in conservation biology and a minor in painting and drawing. Madelyn is interested in exploring the human dimensions component of natural resource conflicts, especially concerning coastal land loss in Louisiana. She has published a photography book, Louisiana Gone, and delivered a TED talk at TEDxLSU sharing the stories and perspectives of Louisianans whose livelihoods are at risk from land loss.

    After completing her bachelors of science, Madelyn plans to apply for a Meridian Institute Fellowship where she would assist in designing collaborative processes to facilitate cross-disciplinary dialogue about challenging domestic and international issues such as land use management, climate change, and community resilience. She then hopes to pursue a masters of environmental management with specialization in human dimensions at Yale University to explore how local, regional, national, and international decision making are intertwined and how they affect environmental planning and climate change mitigation. Madelyn hopes to pursue a career in environmental conflict resolution and improve the stakeholder engagement process of Louisiana’s long-term coastal management plan.


  • Jessy Stevenson

    I grew up in the Swan Valley, tucked into the mountains of northwestern Montana between the Bob Marshall and Mission Mountain Wilderness Areas. My parents, sister, and I lived on a small off-grid homestead in the foothills of the Mission Mountains, where the woods and ridgelines, the cold waters, my parents and a dynamic community of local people helped plant the seed for my love of wild places. Similar to many small, northwest towns, those of the Swan Valley were built on the backs of the timber industry. As I grew old enough to understand the concept of public lands and the politics which surround them – those at the root of tensions within my own community – my parents taught me the importance of finding a balance and reminded me to listen. Listen to the land. Listen to the people. Listen to understand before you speak and act.

    It wasn’t until I moved to Missoula, to attend high school, that I truly understood the value of public lands, as well as the unsettling ease with which we stereotype people’s relationships with the land that appear so different than our own. By the time I graduated I knew that I wanted to go on to study the relationships between people and their landscapes. After a year of working and learning from rural communities in Spain and Italy, I returned to Missoula and began attending the University of Montana. A year and a half later I set out in pursuit of more local ecological knowledge, this time living and working as an apprentice of agroforestry in rural Costa Rica for eleven months. Following that, I decided to learn a trade before returning to the classroom and apprenticed for a year as a carpenter and woodworker, focusing on sustainable building techniques and urban land use planning. In spring of 2017 I returned to the University of Montana to pursue degrees in Environmental Studies and Resource Conservation, as well as a minor in Wilderness Studies. I’ve tried to tailor my education to focus on conflict resolution and place-based education, two areas which I believe to be integral in working with people and their landscapes.

    While the mountains, rivers, and prairies have taught me the necessity of stewardship and conservation, the stories of people who love and work the land in dynamic ways have taught me the importance of finding balance. Next spring I will graduate from the University of Montana and apply for graduate school, where I plan to study place-based education, rural communities and conflict resolution. Driven by the growing challenges faced by our public lands and wild places, I aim to work with local land users and conservationists to find collaborative solutions to help protect our important places.

  • Chris Torres

    I grew up in the mountains of East County San Diego; Lakeside, California. That part of Southern California is more mountain and forest than ocean and beach. Coupled with weekly visits to the mountains and deserts of Northern Baja California to visit family, mountains, trees, and chaparral feel more like home than any other landscape. Growing up in a deeply religious home added a moral dimension to these landscapes; mountains, forests, and deserts divided by political lines; lives lived so differently because of political borders. So, it made sense to me to pursue degrees in environmental studies and philosophy at UC Berkeley, not that a first-generation Mexican-American knew what either of those majors were or what UC Berkeley was. Only after earning degrees in those majors, and after working outdoor education in Southern California, that I realized I wanted to know more about the history, politics, and ecology that have sculpted and defined our landscapes, our lives. Two master’s degrees later in the same two subjects pushed me to further see that knowing the natural and political history of why our lives and landscapes look they way they do is not enough. Pursuing a Ph.D. in public policy and administration will allow me to see and know the mechanisms through which landscapes and lives are sculpted. Having this knowledge and these skills will, hopefully, prepare me to be the best citizen I can be along with being a well prepared public servant in the field of environmental and social justice in whatever capacity I can.

  • Samantha Unruh

    I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah with my parents, three younger brothers and older sister. As a family, we spent a lot of time camping and hiking in Southern Utah. I went to West High School where I joined the Enviro Leaders Club. The club members created environmental stewardship-based lesson plans that we taught during after-school programs for third and fourth graders from predominantly low income and minority families. I also played on the high school volleyball team which took me to Central Wyoming College on a scholarship. Although they are not well known for their volleyball program, Central Wyoming is nationally revered for their outdoor education program. In Wyoming, I had my first introduction to hands-on research in Sinks Canyon. I started working with geography and environmental science professors who mentored me towards a degree in sustainability. After two years I obtained an Associates Degree and retired from my collegiate volleyball career. I transferred to the University of Utah three years ago while working as a general manager for a hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. I studied abroad in Costa Rica studying conservation biology and Spanish. I applied that experience in the University of Utah’s Conservation Biology Lab where I assisted Professor Evan Buechley defending his dissertation on the ecological importance of vultures in Ethiopia. I recently completed a full-time internship with the National Conservation Lands Directorate of the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, DC where I primarily worked on geospatial analysis. I am one semester away from obtaining a BS in Environmental Sustainability Studies and a BA in International Studies with an emphasis in Development and Sustainability. After graduation, I am considering applying to law school to pursue a career in environmental law, or working towards a masters in natural disaster mitigation and response using geodata.

  • Andre Virden

    I grew up going back and forth between Minnesota and the Lac du Flambeau reservation. My dad was the BIA’s director of trust and at the time was midwest regional director. He’d bring me to work fairly often when I was a kid or often enough anyway to learn all about treaties, self determination, federal obligations, etc. My dad was also a forester for 20 years so naturally I too wanted to be one. When I started college at UW-Stevens Point I had every intention of going for forestry, but during the summer my allergies were the absolute worst they had ever been and it turned out that I am quite allergic to tree pollen. So trees were a no go for me. I ended up going to school for fisheries & water resources mainly due to there not being many trees out in the water (and also because my reservation is 50% water). In December of 2017 I somehow managed to graduate despite the doubts I had. I am now currently looking to further my education with a master’s or doctorate in tribal management at University of Minnesota – Duluth (UMD). Until I save up enough money to do that goal I am working currently at my tribes natural resource department as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Coordinator. Working with the community, our wild rice program, water resources program and our brownfields specialist. I hope to eventually work at Bureau of Indian Affairs at some point down the road. I feel like I can do more good there even though I love working at my tribe.

  • Rebecca Wheeler

    I grew up in Shelbyville, Illinois, a small town in central Illinois that has a population of about 5000 people. It was a predominantly farming and hunting community. I grew up in a rural farming family that hunted while simultaneously implementing land conservation practices. My course of study during my time at Calvin College was a double major in geography and environmental studies with an economic focus. I enjoyed the combination of geographical and environmental studies topics with the real life application possibility of economics. My career goal is to work for governmental land management agencies. I have accepted a job with the Corps of Engineers at Lake Shelbyville in Illinois after interning with the agency for the last three summers as a part of pursuing this career goal. I enjoy the public service aspect of providing outdoor recreation opportunities to the people that visit the facilities and also enjoy the involvement I have in connecting people with the outdoors.

  • Kim Young

    I’m originally from Boise, Idaho.  I attended Boise State University, where I received my BA in Anthropology and MPA with an emphasis on Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Policy.  I supported my education by working in private sector finance, then spent time working as a federal grant manager.  After graduation, I changed industries and moved to my field of study — natural resources.  I currently work for a private firm in eastern Oregon as a natural resources and NEPA consultant.  The bulk of my time is now spent working on environmental impact analyses, with ongoing projects that involve municipal planning and cultural resources.  My goal is to improve the world around me by using policy to create sustainable environments.