Conservation has become a hot topic in the news over the last several years. From political commentary to stars like Leonardo DiCaprio leading the charge against climate change, you don't have to look far to get the scoop on the latest conservation developments.
One local organization is working hard to recognize and support women in their roles within conservation. The Dakota Women in Conservation has a strong mission to promote and support female leaders in the conservation community while providing opportunities for young women to become involved in conservation and management and enhance their skill sets.
"The Dakota Women in Conservation group’s principle goals are to encourage and support women within the conservation sector, provide networking opportunities for women across the Dakotas, and create opportunities for youth interested in the field," says Sarah Hewitt, Conservation Programs Manager for Audubon Dakota.
Seeing the need to shine a light on some of the top female conservationists and scientists throughout the nation, the National Audubon Society started the first Women in Conservation group in 2013. The national Women in Conservation group created the annual Rachel Carson Award to recognize female conservation leaders.
"Rachel Carson helped kick off the environmental movement in the 1960’s, but more than that, she was a leading woman in a predominately male field. Rachel Carson is known as a role model in the conservation community, so it is only fitting that the award recognizes female leaders," says Christina Hargiss, Associate Professor at NDSU in the Natural Resource Management Program.
In addition to recognizing and supporting women currently working in the conservation field, the Dakota Women in Conservation group strives to bring more women into conservation related jobs and to serve as a support system for them to move into conservation leadership roles. A greater diversity of voices in the conservation field will benefit all.
“At the university level we see a fairly equal number of men and women in undergraduate degrees in conservation fields, but we see a large number of women coming back for graduate degrees feeling like they need extra skills and training to get a foot in the door” says Dr. Hargiss. This is one of the reasons the Dakota Women in Conservation currently works with college students through field workshops, and dedicated courses that concentrate on educating students on natural resources focused topics and skills.
"One of our biggest goals is to help young women understand that they can have a career in science and conservation. There are a variety of career options within our field, and it is our goal to shed some light on the opportunities available during their college education. These opportunities can lead to a fulfilling and rewarding career in conservation," says Marissa Ahlering, Prairie Ecologist with Natural Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Dakota Women in Conservation currently focuses on offering college students field training opportunities, and it is the group’s goal to expand into offering various educational programs and environmental workshops for girls and young women of all ages throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota. Their work and dedication to creating these programs and workshops will help pave the way for strong, skilled, and knowledgeable women to become great scientists and conservationists.