Team AF (Class of 2016)
- Ben Lemmond
I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on an unseasonably warm second day of February, making me an Aquarian groundhog. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that I have always had a strong affinity with water and a knack for sleeping in. Charlotte has no waterfront, so a house next to a water tower had to do. (I've only lived in one other house in Charlotte, also next to a water tower.) College took me to Olympia, Washington, where I biked to school in the rain more often than not, through some of the most beautiful (if soggy) landscape I've ever seen. Indian monsoons are no joke, either: I lived in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, for a year after college, writing grants for a classical Indian arts academy that used the arts as a catalyst for social change. I've also been an independent web and graphic designer, done some hard time in the vegan culinary scene, banded birds in Oregon and Mexico, and briefly crewed on a tall ship for college credit (read: explained the nuances of hard tack to third graders while dressed in period costume).
It's easy to fill this story with flashy details, but harder to say they add up to who I am. What I do know about myself is that I've always had dual orbits in very different worlds, even before I discovered the pleasure of translating between them. Case in point: as a flaxen-haired child of the '90s, I was equal parts dewy-eyed nature mystic and devout idolizer of the grunge/punk supernovae of the day. Maybe my nature side has gotten a lot more academic and my counter-cultural hero portfolio has diversified, but even as a demi-adult in this graduate program, I'd say I'm doing a pretty good job of staying true to my kid-self. At this point, I'm pretty content to adopt that as a metric for all of my successes.
- Emma Stuhl
Except for that year when I was afraid of rabid raccoons, I spent my childhood frolicking through backyards and playgrounds. When I left home for college, I discovered backpacking, met salamanders and learned loads about dirt. I was hooked. Since then, I have sought out opportunities to understand what is happening around me and to share that knowledge with others. This quest led me to teach environmental education across New England and in Wyoming, and to farm organically in the hills of the Berkshires. I filled my summers with swimming holes, vistas, and only one bear encounter as I instructed wilderness trips in the White and Mahoosuc Mountains. Here in Vermont, I hope to find ways to share my love and understanding of natural systems with people in a positive, impactful way.
In my free time, you can find me playing outside, cooking beautiful vegetables, or eating meals with friends. I especially appreciate bicycling, running, and cross country skiing. Inside or out, I love to dance and eat cheese, usually at separate times.
- Jessica Griffen
I promised myself that if I returned from my first winter backpacking expedition alive with all my digits, I would never hike in the winter again. A month later, I climbed to the icy summit of Vermont's Camel's Hump. This did not surprise my mom. She'll tell you that as a child, I spent countless hours in the snow in my pink snowsuit, and I never wanted to come inside.
In college, I majored in linguistics as a means of studying everything at once: languages, literature, science, and history. In New Zealand, while researching plant names in an ancient Polynesian language, I found myself more interested in exploring the mountains than working alone at my desk. During my senior year, ecology was a revelation: academics, outside! A few classes whetted my appetite, but my ecology education felt incomplete. After graduating, I managed a rustic lodge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where I learned basic plumbing, how to run a kitchen and how to motivate a team. My passion for sustainable food began there. I followed my stomach to a small dairy in New Hampshire, then to France, where I taught college students French in the gastronomic capital Lyon. Eager to make delicious and sustainably grown food accessible to all people, I moved to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to coordinate a local food hub. I spent as much of my free time there on cross-country skis as possible. These days, fulfilling my childhood dream of staying out in the snow, I am grateful to be a full-time student of the outdoors.
- Sam Talbot
While working on a Student Conservation Association trail crew several years ago, I always found time between tool sharpening and dinner to sneak off for some fishing. These clandestine excursions would often result in little or no fish to report. Nevertheless, any time spent doing what you love is time well spent. This principle remained true to me as I developed a professional life involving conservation, working lands, and people.
Before building and maintaining trails with the SCA, I followed a migration pattern that led me through western Massachusetts, along the scenic Connecticut River corridor from my hometown of Westfield to university in Amherst. My experience in Massachusetts culminated in Shelburne Falls, where I would have an opportunity to get a sense of the strong connection between people and land. Over three years, I worked alongside a wonderful group of folks at the Franklin Land Trust. During this time, I viewed the landscape through maps, deeds, conversations with landowners, and hours of fieldwork as a land steward. Little did I know that my experience of well-orchestrated Easter egg hunts as a child would pay off while searching for corner pins on 300-acre parcels.
The most recent leg of my journey continues much farther north to begin a new adventure here in Burlington, Vermont. Although my travels have brought me all over the country, my deep roots remain in the rocky glacial till of the New England soil. There are many places to explore, but I remember to always leave time for fishing, wood carving, and the occasional motorcycle repair.
- Shelby Perry
Born in the Green Mountains and educated in the Adirondacks, I spent my formative years playing in the mountains. For as long as I can remember, I have preferred the outdoors to in. I graduated in the class of 2008 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in environmental engineering and set out on a journey that, after many twists and turns and about a dozen odd-jobs, would find me here.
I live my life always in search of my next Great Adventure, and have so far been evacuated from a Peace Corps term in West Africa, hiked stream corridors in Lake Tahoe for a summer, worked the front desk of a small hotel in the US Virgin Islands during hurricane season, and spent two summers rambling through (and documenting) the wilderness quality lands in the little-known Red Desert of southern Wyoming. While in Wyoming, I began my hunt for a graduate program with built-in adventure (not to mention copious outside time), and when I found the Field Naturalist program I knew it was the one.
- Sonia DeYoung
In high school, I saw a documentary about Jane Goodall at the Boston Museum of Science. Halfway through I whispered to my best friend, "This is what I'm going to do with my life." I couldn't wait to get out of Massachusetts and embark on a career as a world-traveling zoologist. It might have sent me into a swoon if someone had told me that over the next decade I would chase tarsiers through the Indonesian jungle, ski after wolves in the Rockies, sketch elephant ears in the South African veldt and record bird songs in the Everglades, count bald eagles flying over the high desert of California and scan the cliffs of the Rio Grande for peregrine falcon eyries. Volunteering overseas in college led to interning with the Student Conservation Association after college. Finally the National Park Service hired me to work on the wildlife research crew at Grand Teton National Park, where I spent two of the happiest years of my life.
I always knew I wanted to return to New England, though. This leafy, rolling landscape dotted with old towns held onto my heart wherever else I went, no matter how spectacular. Somewhere along the way I also decided that as much as I love wildlife, I need to understand the big picture. Without soil, water, and plants – in short, the land – how would the animals live, after all? As I fill in these holes in my knowledge over the next two years, I hope I'll also find time to write some letters, make some crafts, and read a few novels.
- Glenn Etter
Glenn has a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from UC-Berkeley and is serving as a sort of "experimental post-doc" participant in the Field Naturalist Program. He is also researching outdoor education programs in Vermont and elsewhere, with the goal of developing his own curriculum for kids and adults.
Before coming to UVM, Glenn Etter spent more than ten seasons working as a whitewater rafting guide in California and Oregon. He eventually decided to learn something about the plants and animals he observed every day, when he wasn't too frightened or distracted.
Glenn also spent years studying and performing improvisational theater in San Francisco. He enjoys joking around, sometimes to his detriment, and he enjoys leading workshops on improvisation, creativity, and collaboration.
Team AG (Class of 2017)
- Hannah Phillips
Hannah Phillips’ world unfurled the day she first saw a topographic map. As a child, Hannah had wandered the woods of Vermont, memorizing the landmarks and undulations of the land, drafting a mental map as she walked. The topo map offered a sudden freedom to see her familiar landscape from a new perspective, revealing spatial patterns she only knew intuitively.
Throughout her life, Hannah has been drawn to experiences that shake her view of the natural world. As an undergraduate at Skidmore College, Hannah obsessed over social insects, an interest that propelled her to Costa Rica to watch the bullhorn acacia writhe with ant defenders when provoked. A devotee to experiential education, Hannah returned north for teaching opportunities in Colorado and, later, Switzerland. There, she led her classes on herpetological missions to vernal pools, tracking expeditions in the sandy washes of Utah canyons, and backyard snow-pit studies in the Alps. A scientific generalist, Hannah welcomes teaching as an opportunity to share her passion for natural places.
Now, as a student in the Ecological Planning program, Hannah is braced for another shift in perspective of topo-map magnitude. When she is not working, she is likely scaling a rock face, jumping in a cold stream, or skiing Vermont’s backcountry. If forced to sit still, she is content to knit and read books by E.O. Wilson.
- Lyra Brennan
Lyra is named after a constellation shaped like a lyre. The myth says that Apollo gave his son Orpheus the lyre, and Orpheus played it to charm the beasts, the rocks, and the trees. It turns out that the beasts, the rocks, and the trees charm Lyra, rather than the other way around. Lyra spent her childhood on the coast of Maine and in the mountains of New Hampshire, so she can’t go very long without diving into cold water or starting up a trailhead.
Lyra worked as an outdoor adventure guide, taking high-school students sea kayaking and seal-spotting in Maine, rock climbing and copperhead-dodging in Shenandoah Valley, and on other expeditions along the eastern seaboard. When she wasn’t guiding, Lyra worked in theater, and eventually wrote and directed a play called “Coyote and Start Again,” which went up Off-Broadway in New York City.
Shortly after her undergraduate years, she curved her work towards research, conservation, and wildlife management. She has studied the effects of climate change on marine life, and monitored and managed endangered shorebirds with Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program. Lyra was also a conservation fellow at Mass Audubon, focusing on policy and education concerning critical habitats. While studying the behavior and biology of Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and American Oystercatchers, it became abundantly clear to Lyra that much like the invisible shapes of constellations, everything is connected.
- Julia Runcie
I’ve always struggled with a passionate attachment to place. As a kid wandering in the Vermont woods I would throw my arms around this tree or that, thinking that I could never bear to leave them, that I would die if they were cut down. Yet I did leave, transplanting myself in places as far-flung as Boston, Rome, and Senegal. Each time, no matter how foreign the soil, my roots reached for purchase and took hold. Most recently I was infatuated with California’s Eastern Sierra. I loved the hot springs and the granite canyons, the indigo bush blooming on the volcanic tablelands, the red-shouldered hawk that roosted in my neighbor’s cottonwood tree. The day I drove away I felt a physical pain. Wendell Berry speaks of “the intimacy the mind makes with the place it awakens in,” but he suggests no method of surviving intimacy after intimacy in place after place.
The best coping mechanism I’ve discovered is conservation work. Knowing a landscape gives you insight into the problems it faces, and a reason to seek solutions. I explored California first as a canoe guide on a shrinking saline lake, then as a crusader uprooting invasive weeds along stream banks. For four years I tracked endangered bighorn sheep throughout a two-hundred-mile stretch of the Sierra Nevada. Yet I found more questions in the mountains than I could answer by climbing them, and I’ve turned to the Ecological Planning program to learn how conservation can amplify and clarify the concept of home. Equipped with a hunting license, a ski pass, and a pair of binoculars, I also hope to rekindle my connection with Vermont, the first place where my mind awakened.
- Sean Beckett
At 4:30 AM somewhere in Costa Rica’s rainforest, a teenage Sean was begrudgingly dragged by the socks from a peaceful slumber in an airy bungalow into the pre-dawn hum of the jungle. After a certain amount of vicious protest, the leader of this naturalist group turned and said “close your mouth and open your ears!” The dawn chorus of a hundred tropical songbirds soaked the air. Dozens of emerald, sapphire, and golden birds dripped from the branches around us and Sean was transfixed. Upon return to his homeland, Vermont, Sean discovered the forests here were also filled with treasures. Scarlet tanagers and indigo buntings adorned trees like hidden Christmas ornaments visible only to those who sought them out.
Addicted to unearthing all this treasure, Sean went to Vassar College to study biology and environmental studies. He researched Atlantic puffins in Maine, northern saw-whet owls in Idaho, pygmy-owls in Mexico, and Clark’s nutcrackers in Wyoming. Sean soon settled in the peripheries of Yellowstone National Park and began leading natural history safaris to share the region’s riches of wolves, bears, and eagles with inquisitive visitors and nature lovers. Each year when the ecotourism traffic in Yellowstone waned, Sean rounded up groups of the most passionate treasure hunters and traversed the frozen shores of the Hudson Bay to embrace its arctic royalty: polar bears, gyrfalcons, and arctic foxes. Thirsty for more tools and hungry for knowledge, Sean is eager to spend the next two years developing his naturalist skills back home in Vermont.
- Katherine Hale
As a child, Katherine Hale believed that neither rain nor sleet nor heat nor gloom of night should get in the way of a good ramble through the abandoned fields and regenerating forests of the upper Neuse River basin in central North Carolina. Twenty years later and thousands of miles from home, this attitude continues to serve her well. She got the classical education she longed for at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, studying the Great Books of Western civilization for four years. Despite falling hard for geometry and rhetoric, she reengaged with her childhood love of “natural philosophy” and emerged dedicated to life as a naturalist-scientist-adventurer in the grand tradition of Charles Darwin and Joseph Banks.
In her first job after graduation, she measured fossil lycopsids from the Carboniferous in the inner vaults of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.; she enjoyed poking around in drawers but preferred to be out collecting in the field. Katherine has also timber framed and tracked wildlife in the woodlands of upstate New York; raised vegetables and hauled irrigation pipes in the northern California coastal fog belt; and botanized extensively throughout the Ventana Wilderness of Big Sur and Carmel Valley. A farmer and gardener by inclination and training, she loves the challenges of growing plants most people have never heard of from seed or cuttings. She's usually the last one in a hiking party because she stops so often to look at plants and draw them in her notebook. At night, meet her under the porch light and look for moths—unless it's raining, in which case she'll be out wandering.
- Ellen Gawarkiewicz
By age six, I had it figured out: I would be a naturalist in the summer and a teacher during the school year. I followed this plan throughout my teenage years and into adulthood. Along the way, I unearthed a passion for connecting people and place through sharing a sense of wonder. As I taught I learned.
The reciprocal nature of teaching led me to far-flung classrooms. In my home on the saltmarshes of Cape Cod, I taught families how to use a seine net and was overwhelmed by the bounty of estuary life. On the beaches of Madagascar, I helped village children make sense of a marine conservation NGO and learned how to make toy sail boats from plastic bags. Along a river in Maine, I connected residents of a low-income housing development, most Somali refugees, with a nearby nature preserve and learned to see ice cracks as drawings of nature. In the North Woods of Minnesota, I taught twine-making and learned to look at the world through Ojibwe stories. And in Nepal, I taught English at a small rural government school and was immersed in the community, culture, and “go slowly” lifestyle of the Himalayan foothills.
Combining my love of learning and teaching, I plan become a naturalist/environmental educator and write children's books. I enjoy invigorating my own sense of wonder by going on long wandering walks, following animal paths through the snow, kayaking through marshes, investigating the wrack line of beaches and paddling around ponds, sneaking up on unsuspecting turtles.
- Anya Tyson
Anya Tyson loves to cover ground, bag peaks, and bushwhack, especially in pursuit of birds and beasts. She first ventured into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to chase the Clark's Nutcracker, trying to keep pace with the bird’s boisterous flights to learn as much as possible about its natural history. As the seasons changed, she skied over sagebrush and frozen lakes, connecting the dots of a wolf pack's movement across the winter landscape. Once, on a snowy afternoon, she followed fresh tracks like breadcrumbs to a tree-well that only partially concealed an adult mountain lion.
In the past two years, Anya has worked primarily with another wild animal — the adjudicated teenage boy — at a residential and wilderness therapy program in northwestern Wyoming. She led the dudes on trips past the tips of the Tetons and deep into the canyons of southern Utah, doing her best to combine therapy and botany. She enjoyed the challenge of this work and its rewards, moments when angry, foul- and loud-mouthed teens fell silent to watch Great Gray Owls hunting from fence posts behind the center. Nevertheless, birdsong, animal sign, and the lingering Latin names of plants beckoned her to a different calling, so she set her sights on the Field Naturalist program as her next summit.
She is excited about the new songbirds and hardwoods of the Green Mountain State, which she finds strangely reminiscent of her childhood home in the forests of coastal Oregon. Anya has aspirations to knit the conservation and outdoor recreation communities more closely together. She envisions well-designed citizen science projects as a means to harness the potential of other adventure-conservationists who want to save the world. Wielding an accordion, harmonica, and lots of sing-a-longs, Anya intends to somehow incorporate folk music into this campaign.
- Gabe Andrews
Water makes up about 60% of the human body; it’s in my blood and we’re not just talking physiology. As a kid, I spent countless days splashing on the shores of ponds and creeks in my backyard in Ohio. But I knew these shores had their limits; I was to be land-locked no longer. Sure, Ohio has plenty of fresh water, but nothing compares to infinite wonders of the sea.
I first became acquainted with diamondback terrapins in the Chesapeake Bay. I trudged marshes and navigated tidal currents to collect population data for these brackish turtles. On the barrier islands of Georgia, I did odd jobs for imperiled ecotherms. I rehabbed injured sea turtles and assisted in alligator surgeries. (It turns out that gators can survive shotgun wounds and tennis ball ingestion — but not without complications). Meanwhile, I’d pursue my love of eating honey, listening to bluegrass, or cooking something delectable.
My next stop was Costa Rica for my first tropical turtle season. With a combination of education and ecotourism, I partnered with locals to protect turtle nests instead of poaching them (pun certainly not intended). On my northern migration, I looked after ring-tailed lemurs, great hornbills and gopher tortoises; I even raised a few colonies of honeybees. A sense of worry wrenched in my gut as I approached Vermont and pondered the growing distance to the sea. But with the Green mountains in my rear view mirror, my apprehension quickly lifted. Lake Champlain glistened in the distance; I had found more wonder.
- Jamie Ervin
Ecological Planning and Vermont Law School
One time, when I was about 12 years old, my mom threw a newspaper at me and told me that I was only allowed to quit the soccer team if I did something else “constructive” with my time. There are some important details that I’ve left out here, but I hated competitive sports, and so I eagerly complied with her demand. This proved a blessing a few months later when I enrolled in a one-of-a-kind, outdoor adventure/service learning program called The American Adventure Service Corps (TAASC). From TAASC I learned real outdoor skills like rock climbing and backpacking, but more importantly, I became completely immersed in the beauty and complexity of my home in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. I’ve been obsessed with mountains ever since, and when I haven’t been out climbing I’ve slowly wandered my way into the environmental field, one low-paying, temporary position at a time.
After gaining a B.S. in Environmental Studies from UNC Asheville, I spent several years of AmeriCorps service doing land protection and stewardship work with a regional land trust called Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC). At SAHC I split my time between ecological and legal work, and I could never really decide which one I liked better. Fortunately for me, UVM and Vermont Law School (VLS) host a dual program for indecisive, generalist-type people like myself. I don’t even have to live far away from the mountains. My program combines VLS’s curriculum in land use law with the core FNEP curriculum at UVM. This might seem a bit random, but I’m hoping that the combo will help me evolve into the ultimate conservation professional: one who both understands the planet’s ecosystems and knows the legal tools needed to protect them.
Last modified September 15 2015 12:05 PM