Alumni Spotlight: Alissa Anderson

Alissa Anderson
Landscape & Livelihood ‘10
Hometown: Seattle, WA

Why did you choose to do a field program with SVC?

I really liked being outside and had also found I learned best and was most engaged during experiential leaning rather than class lectures. The program seemed a natural fit to help me advance my career and have a great time doing it!

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One of your greatest takeaways from the program:

I grew up in Seattle, not the suburbs, but the big city proper, and wanted to work in the field of natural resource conservation. Let’s be honest, I knew nothing about the real world application of what it takes to conserve natural resources. I first came to the Rockies thinking that guns were for shooting people, and that cutting trees was always bad. I had these opinions and feelings having only experienced an urban lifestyle. Now, I am a hunter and a proponent of responsible logging on public land. I guess what I’m trying to illustrate is that SVC played a large role in my education about the complicated relationships of people’s lives and natural resources in the real world. This experience was invaluable to my growth as a human. It helped me understand not only the natural history of the landscape, but also the diverse human perspectives and experiences related to natural resources in a real face-to-face, nitty gritty way.

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One of your fondest memories from your time in the Swan:

It’s not really a single memory, but I think being immersed in such a wild and wonderous place day in and day out, surrounded by other curious people, was a true gift. The places we explored were unbelievable: squishy bogs populated by carnivorous plants, alpine ridges under the wings of golden eagles, wild streams filled with sculpin, and griz tracks on the road in the morning just out my front door. That’s all neat and fluffy, but the inspiration from other students, instructors, and community guest speakers really helped me experience all those things in an elevated way that challenged my preconceptions.

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What are you up to now (professionally and/or personally)? 

I am currently in a master’s program at Washington State University, studying Canada lynx occupancy in Glacier National Park using camera traps. Back to academia! I spent the last seven years working various wildlife biology tech jobs, mostly in NW Montana and central Idaho, on a variety of research and monitoring projects focused on fisher, lynx, harlequin ducks, black swifts, sharp-tailed grouse habitat, bog lemmings, common loons, wildlife habitat, and bats. I also spent the last two falls in Antarctica working on a Weddell seal research project. 

How did participating in our program help you get there? 

I made some solid connections with professionals in the area; it sure helps your application when people already know who you are. I did not list any of my instructors from the program on my job applications but had one experience where an employer saw SVC on my resume and called up the instructors as references because they knew them from past collaborations. I got the job!

Any advice for current students with similar academic and career goals?

Try new things, get dirty, and let yourself feel uncomfortable. 

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