A summer with our Scholars: restoration, education and new friends!
Conservation Northwest / Aug 31, 2023 / Central Cascades, Habitat Restoration, Protecting Wildlands
Doris Duke Conservation Scholars from across the U.S. jumped into Conservation Northwest restoration fieldwork this summer.
For the second year in a row, Conservation Northwest has had the good fortune and great privilege to work with three bright young natural resource students through the University of Washington’s Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program. Mikayla Agbamuche, Amber Smith, and Kareli Mora Ayon – each attending a different school from across the country – joined our staff for the summer. This enthusiastic team brought diverse experiences to our 2023 field season, and we had an incredible time learning together in our beautiful Washington wildlands. A shared interest in plants and community outreach led to their primary project: developing educational signage to protect meadows, restoring riparian areas near waterways, and connecting wildlife corridors in different watersheds around the Central Cascades. Amber’s beautiful plant and wildlife drawings will be on full display on our public lands!
Amber, Kareli, and Mikayla engaged in a wide breadth of experiences with us, ranging from wildlife camera retrieval, to dispersed recreation surveys, to garbage and invasive plant removal at I-90 wildlife crossings. They made professional connections at a wildlife connectivity workshop and led their scholar cohort on a hike in the Greenwater River corridor, identifying all the new native plants they learned in the field. Their Conservation Northwest mentors – Laurel Baum, Tanner Humphries, and Jen Syrowitz- were educated and inspired by their ways of knowing and practicing. Policy and advocacy became their new interest, pairing well with their shared desire for just and democratic decision processes that intentionally include underrepresented voices. At Conservation Northwest, we do our best to practice this value in our work, but time spent with the next generation of diverse voices brought to bear this need, and how we can always do better.
Meet this year’s Doris Duke Conservation Scholars!
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Environmental Science Major
I became interested in this field because I have a passion for encouraging people of color into the outside world without the negative connotation while also ensuring environmental justice.
I interned with Conservation Northwest through the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program this past summer. I am originally from New Jersey, and I go to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in environmental science! My main interests include large ecological restoration projects, plant and water resources, and policy. I became interested in this field because I have a passion for encouraging people of color into the outside world without the negative connotation while also ensuring environmental justice. Many people of color have disconnected from the natural world because of the racist past but I would like to take the power back and become positively connected to nature again! After college, I plan to go to graduate school and work on restoration projects dealing with freshwater and plants!
Since I am interested in restoration projects, I was placed with Conservation Northwest helping with the Greenwater riparian restoration project. We did this by taking surveys of dispersed camping sites and making educational outreach signs for the Greenwater and Little Naches area. The surveys include questions about tree damage, erosion, litter, etc. and we were able to share them with the Forest Service to assist with ranking the sites by primary restoration need. We have also joined Jen Syrowitz at a Washington wildlife conservation conference meeting to learn more about policy and projects happening around the PNW. We also joined Tanner Humphries on his project with wildlife monitoring, and retrieving fisher cameras.
Some of my favorite places to visit are the Hoh Rainforest and places with old-growth forests and clear skies to see the stars. Through the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, our cohort was able to hike through some of the Hoh Rainforest and it was so mesmerizing. The enchanted old-growth trees and vibrant moss amazed me. We also went many places away from cities so the skies were clear from much pollution and I could see so many stars and the Milky Way sometimes too! It was so beautiful and unforgettable!
University of Florida
Natural Resource Conservation with minors in Urban Planning, Environmental Horticulture, and Dance
I am passionate about plants and the relationships people have with them in both the past and present. I am interested in cultural preservation through plant conservation and encouraging members of minority communities to reconnect with nature by promoting the inclusion of minorities in outdoor recreational settings.
I am from South Florida and am a senior at the University of Florida majoring in Natural Resource Conservation with minors in Urban Planning, Environmental Horticulture, and Dance! I am a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar in the 2022 cohort and was placed at Conservation Northwest for my second-year internship! When I was discussing what I wanted from my second summer internship with the program staff, I emphasized that I wanted to be placed in a positive learning environment where I could learn about the many dimensions of conservation and I have gotten all that and more at Conservation Northwest. This summer I have learned so much about how conservation initiatives are implemented and how nonprofits and government agencies work together to get funding and complete different projects. I have had such a great time this summer working with my mentors Laurel, Tanner, Jen, and the rest of the Conservation Northwest staff and learning about their amazing work with this organization.
I am passionate about plants and the relationships people have with them in both the past and present. I am interested in cultural preservation through plant conservation and encouraging members of minority communities to reconnect with nature by promoting the inclusion of minorities in outdoor recreational settings. When I graduate college, I would love to pursue a career in either habitat restoration with a focus on preserving and restoring native vegetation or in environmental planning with a focus on urban biodiversity conservation to bring green spaces into low-income communities. Over the summer I have also become interested in public engagement and working with different stakeholder groups to solve environmental issues.
I have visited so many gorgeous natural places that I have adored, I really enjoyed exploring the state of Washington last summer with the Doris Duke program. My favorite places I visited were the Hoh rainforest, (walking through the hall of mosses was one of the most magical experiences of my life) and the North Cascades (Some of the best views I have ever seen in my life). Back home in Florida, my favorite natural place to visit is the Everglades since it is such a unique and beautiful ecosystem.
Kareli Mora Ayon
Environmental Science Major
I have realized that I feel happier in environmental policy working for those who are unrepresented and breaking the stereotype that being outdoors has to be a negative interaction. I want my work to tie in with ecosystems and all the little and big critters that reside in them.
I attend Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington majoring in Environmental Science. I grew up in Stockton, California where agriculture work was a strong component of my life. The only time I was outdoors when I was younger was for work. Heat exhaustion, long hours of manual labor, and pesticides created this negative outlook on what being outside really meant, however, this sparked my passion for environmental justice, how beautiful the outdoors really is, and how it is everyone’s right to enjoy the beauty of mother nature.
Moving to Washington in 2014 ignited that spark into a full flame. Even though my major is environmental science, I have realized that I feel happier in environmental policy working for those who are unrepresented and breaking the stereotype that being outdoors has to be a negative interaction. I want my work to tie in with ecosystems and all the little and big critters that reside in them because animals are also that unrepresented community to those who believe they are superior to them. Which is not the case at all. This is why I love Conservation Northwest and the work that they do with the riparian restoration project to the carnivore project, and I know it just doesn’t stop there. Doris Duke did an amazing job at pairing me with this organization with what my interests are.
My first time camping was last year and the first year I became a Doris Duke scholar. This was when I truly saw the whole beauty that Washington state had to offer. We traveled all over the state, but my absolute favorite places were the Hoh rainforest and its Hall of Mosses trail, an enchanted forest to get yourself sunken into, Mountain Rainier National Park with its white waters and colorful fields of flowers, and the San Juan Islands where we focused on the marine ecosystems.