Ten Yale students from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies have been awarded conservation fellowships for their dedication to environmentalism, according to an e-mail sent to forestry students and faculty Feb. 17. Eight students received the Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship, which provides scholarship money, leadership training and career development, while two received the Wyss Fellowship for the Conservation of the American West, which gives conservation training to awardees planning to work in the western United States. The News sat down with Wyss Fellow Greg Zimmerman FES ’12 and Doris Duke fellows Shelly Barnes FES ’12 and Nathan Rutenbeck FES ’12 to talk about the environment.
Q What inspired you to pursue a career in conservation?
A Barnes — I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by some inspiring mentors in my life. My mom is a conservationist through and through, and growing up, we did a lot in our family, whether through recycling or being active in the community.
Rutenbeck — I own an organic blueberry farm, and I think it’s been the experience of being a land manager, having a business, and being committed to environmental quality and economic sustainability from a professional perspective. My interest in conservation came out of my visceral experience as a worker, businessman, and community member.
Zimmerman — Well I’m from Colorado and Colorado is blessed with some of the most beautiful open spaces, big beautiful rivers and canyons, and also a lot of people want to live there. When I got out of college I decided that I wanted to do something with it — I enjoy the outdoors, and I wanted to make sure it would be there in the future. For me it’s all about protecting what I love!
Q What do you think is the most important issue that we, as a society, need to fix in terms of conservation?
A Rutenbeck — There’s a relative unawareness by most people that their daily livelihood and wellbeing, everything that they care about, is essentially rooted in the land and the life processes of the planet. We aren’t necessarily thinking about this daily, and that’s the biggest challenge.
Q Why did you choose Yale to study conservation?
A Barnes — I think that the strength of the FES is really the cohort of students it brings in. The student body is diverse in their conservation focus, but filled with incredible leaders and people who have great experience in the field and in a lot of different areas.
Q What do you think about green efforts at Yale?
A Zimmerman — I think that it’s important. I think that particularly stressing Yale integrated ecosystem services into their mission is terrific. You walk into any building at this school people are printing paper, throwing out Styrofoam, but anything that makes students that are busy think about the environment is great. In the end, everyone kind of has to do his or her part.