Notes from the Field -Shelby Weidenkopf

Shelby WeidenkopfOne of the most influential opportunities I’ve had at the University of Wisconsin was being selected as one of the 2020-2021 Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellows. For those unfamiliar, this program rewards funding to students with proposed research ideas to work with research faculty. I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Adena Rissman, the Principal Investigator of the People, Institutions, and Ecosystems (PIE) Lab.

My particular research explored Kirtland’s warbler conservation in Wisconsin. More specifically, how and why private landowners have invested in conservation, and what policy tools/cost share programs have enabled these efforts. In my research, I aimed to better understand ways to incentivize and encourage landowners to conserve Kirtland’s warbler and other fire obligate species in Wisconsin’s Central Sands. To explore my research questions, I created a case study of private landowners, held interviews with different conservation practitioners and stakeholders, as well as completed a media and document analysis to better understand the dialogue surrounding this complex topic. This project was incredibly special to me, as the majority of my research took place in Adams County, Wisconsin, where I’m from. My experience in the lab provided me with a much needed perspective about the unique challenges and opportunities of private land conservation in Wisconsin. I will forever be grateful for the mentorship from Dr. Rissman and her graduate students.

In addition to my research, I have had the honor to serve two terms as the President of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chapter of the Wildlife Society, a professional organization aimed to network students passionate about conservation.. I have also had the privilege to work for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and have interned at Midwest Environmental Advocates and the University of Wisconsin Zoology Museum.

After graduation, I will be working as a park ranger at the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Minnesota until mid-October. After serving as a ranger, I hope to travel around the country and complete various seasonal jobs in conservation before ultimately returning to graduate school. On, Wisconsin!