Erin Tracy, master’s student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, has been named as the John Robertson – Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Conservation and Environmental Leadership Fellow.
Tracy has loved the outdoors since she was a child, but it was not until college that she discovered she could have a career actively learning about, and protecting, the natural world. Her interest in environmental research began when she had the opportunity to study abroad at a field station in Queensland, Australia. As part of her semester studies, she conducted a research project focused on community response to environmental degradation after a natural disaster (Cyclone Yasi).
“It was incredibly rewarding to participate in habitat restoration and community engagement after this devastating cyclone,” Tracy said. “The experience inspired me to finish my bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Science and pursue additional environmental conservation work.”
Tracy believes leadership skills are vital when working with others to achieve a common goal. She stated that strong leadership skills enhance one’s ability to communicate effectively with their community, manage conflict, set achievable goals, and motivate others to work together toward creative solutions. Furthermore, the environmental challenges facing the planet today require managers to use an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving. Leaders in conservation must have an in-depth knowledge of their field of study, as well as an understanding of politics, economics, ethics, and industry.
“I believe my most important leadership role so far is reflected in my AmeriCorps experience,” Tracy said. “I was lucky enough to be selected for a position with the Marin Municipal Water District, restoring and enhancing anadromous salmon populations in California. This position has a wide range of responsibilities including fisheries monitoring and habitat restoration, organizing volunteer events, educating kids about salmon and watershed health and attending scientific conferences. These opportunities to get involved in natural resource management, outreach, education, and professional development shaped me as a leader and inspired me to continue my work in conservation.”
Tracy said she believes that continuing her education in the Fisheries and Wildlife master’s program at MSU is giving her the tools and knowledge she needs to more fully understand the principles underlying this field and prepare for a career in fisheries management. She is currently working with Dr. Dana Infante in the Aquatic Landscape Ecology lab researching how landscape factors effect lotic fish habitat.
Tracy plans to use the $2,500 fellowship award to attend the Great Lakes Leadership Academy Emerging Leaders Program. “This program gives participants the opportunity to learn individual and organizational leadership skills, practice conflict management techniques, and get to know others in the natural resource community across Michigan,” she said. “I believe this program will give me the skills that I need to be a more successful leader, collaborator, and manager of natural resources, as well as the confidence to address the many challenges we face today.”
“The knowledge I will gain through my classes and conducting my research project at MSU will give me the technical skills I need in my field,” Tracy said. “This award will also give me the opportunity to go through additional training that focuses on growing as a leader and making valuable connections with fellow members of the natural resource community. I believe the leadership skills I will acquire through the Great Lakes Leadership Academy Emerging Leaders Program will allow me to work toward striking a balance in resource use among a diverse group of users.”