Last month, sophomore Jess Greenburg went on a two-week trip to Yellowstone National Park. The trip was part of her internship with the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative (NRCC), which is dedicated to developing future conservation leaders.
Greenburg went with Dr. Richard Wallace, professor of Environmental Studies, director of the Food Studies Program, and co-director of the Robert
and Shurley Knaefler Whittaker Environmental Research Station. Dr. Wallace, a board member at the NRCC, helped Greenburg get connected with the organization. “Jess and I were already working on my research based in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and I thought Jess would be a great fit as an NRCC intern,” said Wallace. “On our Yellowstone trip, Jess and I worked together on our joint research project, which is a continuation of research I have been working on for three years, on the relationship of educational programs in the GYE to the GYE’s species and ecosystem conservation needs.”
Greenburg led a workshop for educators on how to bring more advocacy into their programs. “The workshop was for environmental educators of different kinds. There were people who work with K-12 kids, there were people who are private nature guides, people who work for the national parks, just a variety of different types of educators… the workshop was about how they can strengthen their environmental education programs to include more advocacy,” Greenburg said.
In many ways, Greenburg said the trip was a growing experience for her. “It was really awesome to be able to work with and help out these professionals. It really built up my confidence because it made me see that I am totally capable as an academic, as an environmentalist, as a sophomore in college. I think that’s especially important as a woman because you kind of suffer from that imposter syndrome a lot of feeling like you’re not as good as the people around you, but being put into that situation where it’s like, ‘OK, lead a whole bunch of professionals, go!’ and then you can actually succeed at doing it. You see that you really are a perfectly capable person,” Greenburg said.
Not many students are able to get the opportunity to go to Yellowstone to do this kind of work. Dr. Wallace, who works with Board President Peyton Griffin, as well as all the interns at the NRCC, said, “Jess has already made a substantial impact at NRCC, and Ms. Griffin looks forward to Jess’s continued involvement with NRCC beyond her internship. This is all the more impressive because Jess is the youngest intern in NRCC’s history (almost all of our interns are graduate students).”
Greenburg’s goal is to be a part of positive change. “What we really want is for a greater emphasis on environmental advocacy in both the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and everywhere, because if you teach people to be advocates for the environment, they’ll be better stewards of it, they’ll better protect it, and we’ll have healthier ecosystems in the future,” Greenburg said.