I attended the first Wildlife in the West back in 2011, and boy was it a great experience. I made life-long connections with locals and students. I can now say I've used telemetry, can identify multiple species from their tracks, and learned a ton from the great variety of speakers and people we were exposed to.
After Wildlife in the West, I had a clearer vision of what I wanted to do. Since that time I have been focused on finding ways to connect what I see as the three main factors in practical conservation: Science, policy, and people. The locals, the law makers and the scientists are not on the same page, and rarely even have or work from the same information. That makes for slow progress and backwards agendas in regards to conservation. Clear lines of communication between these groups is critical to success. Because of this I went to grad school for a Master's in Public Administration and Natural Resource Conflict Resolution in Missoula, Montana.
Today I work for the Gilliam County Soil and Water Conservation District in Condon, Oregon – 30 miles from where I grew up. We work with local landowners to conserve their soil, water, and restore streams where endangered summer steelhead spawn. Throughout the county we work on many projects and partner with different departments of the state and federal government, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Confederated Warmsprings Tribes. We work to bring new innovations and science to locals, share their concerns with agencies, and implement sound conservation throughout the county. In my job as Project Coordinator I write grants for projects and spend a portion of my time in the field doing everything from fish counts to installing solar panels for spring developments.
My advice, be open to new and different ideas. Get out of your comfort zone, and examine why you're not comfortable. Stay engaged with your surroundings and you'll learn a lot. The Swan is a fantastic place to be, the wildlife is everywhere and the views are spectacular. Actively listen and enjoy every moment.