ecological planning curriculum
Ecological Planning Class of 2009
- 2009 Ecological Planning and Field Naturalist Team
Left to right: Philip Halteman (FN), Mia Akaogi (EP), Allaire Diamond (FN), Isaac Nadeau (FN), Ashley Bies (EP), Lisa Dunaway, David Jaffe (FN), Quincy Campbell (FN), and Hisashi Kominami (PSS)
- Mia Akaogi
Growing up in rural Vermont and on her parents' organic farm, Mia was instilled with an appreciation of the environment at an early age. Her connection to the natural world is a product of childhood explorations of her backyard, with a younger brother and sister, and work with her parents to grow crops for their livelihood. Seeing her parents at work helped her recognize the dilemma that faces many of us as human beings; how do we balance our needs with the desire to improve and maintain the health of the environment we live in? As an adult returning to her parents' farm, Mia is often amazed at how much her parents have improved the ten acres they own. The numbers and diversity of mammals, birds, insects, and amphibians have visibly increased since her childhood, and the trees and shrubs her dad planted over the years have changed the landscape so immensely that it is no longer possible to see the abandoned hay field that was there previously. Impressed with these changes that have occurred so rapidly and on such a small scale, Mia has great hopes for the future and the possibility of finding a way to live with nature rather than at the expense of nature.
These experiences led to Mia's decision to attend Cornell University and pursue a degree in Natural Resources. At Cornell, she really valued the interdisciplinary approach to the Natural Resources program; recognizing the need for a more broad knowledge base in order to facilitate environmental change. In addition to coursework in Applied Ecology, she obtained both field and laboratory research skills through employment in the Horticulture Department and a summer internship at the Cornell Biological Field Station. Although her undergraduate experiences were life-changing and invaluable, she found that after four years she wanted to see what opportunities were available outside of academia. It was at this time that she heard about AmeriCorps and decided that this would be a great way to explore potential career options while at the same time gaining experience from environmental professionals.
Mia made the momentous move to Knoxville, Tennessee to become a part of the CAC AmeriCorps Water Quality Team. As an AmeriCorps member she implemented the Adopt-A-Watershed program into middle and high schools and worked alongside members of local government, environmental agencies, and the public on many watershed improvement projects. This experience inspired Mia to return to school, and she was reminded of her undergraduate experience by the interdisciplinary approach of the Ecological Planning program. She hopes that graduate studies will give her both scientific knowledge and also the tools to work with many different interest groups and implement environmental practices into mainstream society. Her dream is to do what her parents have done on a much larger scale by planning how we use our land so that human impact on the environment is minimized and land is conserved for the future.
I grew up homeschooled with a wood stove, stream, and passion for the outdoors and without electricity, running water, or any interest in formal education. However, at the age of 16 my love of nature crossed a tipping point when awareness of ecological degradation and extinction turned into a life-long commitment to nature conservation. It also pushed me into college as a necessary, if regrettable, step on my path toward large-scale conservation work.
Since then I've been pursuing the science of conservation biology, with an emphasis on wildlife ecology, as a tool for landscape scale conservation work. My first stride took me to Marlboro College – 320 students located 10 miles from the nearest town – a metropolis that overwhelmed me for the whole first year. Thanks to the forest that encircled campus and the trail system that wound through it and needed a lot of muddy work, I pulled through and earned the nickname "Bies(t)." I conducted my first independent research projects for my year-long undergraduate thesis and became convinced that habitat connectivity was the most urgent need for me to work on as a field conservationist.
I held onto this ideal through two years of fieldwork after college in Hawaii, Nevada, and California. I became impressed with the Wildlife Conservation Society's track record of effective landscape conservation work, and when I learned that the main objective of the WCS's Jaguar Conservation Program was to protect connectivity throughout South and Central America I decided to shape my graduate work into a collaboration with the JCP.
Just after being accepted into the Ecological Planning Program, I finally got an invitation for a meeting with the JCP and recently finished developing a collaborative research plan for my M.S. project. I will be in Belize this summer developing jaguar (Panthera onca) prey censusing techniques and applying them to concerns of the empty forest syndrome and jaguar killing due to livestock predation. The work will be exiting, but my true hope is that it will propel my foot through the doorway to my dream – to focused work on continental connectivity conservation.
Last modified October 19 2009 01:20 PM