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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Alumni Career Spotlight: Brooke Burrows

Brooke Burrows
Natural Resource Management ‘15
Deputy Project Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service   

Brooke smiling with grassy pastures behind herBrooke completed her undergraduate degree in SENR in 2015 after majoring in Natural Resource Management. During her time in SENR, she was involved in the OSU Marching Band and interned with the Student Conservation Association (SCA). After graduation, Brooke received a Master of Natural Resource Stewardship from Colorado State University and is now the Deputy Project Leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Hawaii. 

Read the full interview with Brooke: 

A Glance at Brooke’s Current Work  

I work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and am the Deputy Project Leader at Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes three refuges: Kīlauea Point NWR, Hanalei NWR, and Hulēʻia NWR. In my job, every day is different! Some days are mostly spent inside doing administrative work and planning, while others are out in the field conducting surveys, meeting with partners, and making management decisions. 

The most rewarding part of my job is being in the support role as Deputy. I help the Project Leader move projects through, I supply the field staff and empower them to meet the mission of the USFWS. While I might spend more time indoors now than out in the field, it is really special at the end of the fiscal year to see the accomplishments our staff have made toward preserving the threatened and endangered species here on Kauaʻi. 

Professional Development  

What were you involved in during college?Brooke smiling with her black-coated dog at the beach
While at Ohio State I was in The Ohio State University Marching Band from 2011-2015. I played trumpet in T-row. ​I also interned with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) as a Career Discovery Intern (CDIP) the summer of 2013 and 2014 at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Biology/Forestry and at Patoka River NWR in Natural Resources Management. I was selected for a Career Pathways position with Patoka River NWR while working on my master’s degree in 2015 and finally at Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District in 2016.  

What was a challenge you faced in your professional development and how did you overcome it?
One challenge I have faced was the realization that my skillset was not aligning with the type of work I wanted to do. I wanted to be in the field, but through my first job with the USFWS, I found I was better at and enjoyed more of the managerial/administrative work. It is still bittersweet to be "out of the field," but I am glad I was able to realize where my strengths lay and start to tailor myself and look for opportunities that built upon my strengths. I feel much more accomplished and satisfied with my work now. 

Brooke wearing a orange vest and smiling next to water and kayaksWhat advice would you give to someone who is still in college and hoping to do what you do?
​I would encourage them to go to grad school and apply for Directorate Fellows and Career Pathways positions. These options can help lead to a placement in a permanent federal position with the USFWS. It isn't unheard of, but it is more difficult to get into federal service the traditional ways. These programs are specifically geared toward increasing the diversity of the Service and providing opportunities for students.


"It is really special at the end of the fiscal year to see the accomplishments our staff have made toward preserving the threatened and endangered species here on Kauaʻi."


What experience do you feel was most valuable in your professional development?
​I really enjoyed my master’s program, but I think my internships through the SCA and USFWS were integral and the most valuable for my professional and personal development. 

What did you do immediately post-graduation?
In 2016, I completed a master’s program at Colorado State University, studying Natural Resource Stewardship with a focus in Ecological Restoration. It was a professional master's program. ​I had originally considered pursuing a Master of Science or working for a year or two after school, and I talked through my options with my advisor at OSU, OSU alumni in a similar field, and my mentors from internships within the USFWS. Ultimately, what sealed the deal for me was when a Career Pathways position became available and I knew I needed to be in school to apply. Some of the advice I heard in favor of going to graduate school right away is that "you are already in school mode. You aren't making an income that you won't want to lose, and you are already in the study-and-learn mode." 

What was most important to you in your job search?Brooke smiling holding a decorated antler in front of a green screen
I have worked across the country now, from Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, and now Kauaʻi. Each time I move I find things I am looking for when applying to jobs. One thing I have learned is to look for work in a place I want to live. Even if the job is amazing, if you don't like where you live it will take a toll, and vice versa as well. I look for work that I find interesting, that will be something new, a good learning opportunity to continue to build upon my strengths and work on my weaknesses. If I don't think the job would suit my interests and strengths, and it takes place in a location I wouldn’t be happy living in, I won't apply.


How to connect with Brooke:

​I would be more than happy to answer questions, or mentor students! I believe in paying it forward, just like Woody said. My email is the best way for an initial contact. I am 5-6hrs behind Eastern Time depending on the time of year.


Post created December 2021