Jennifer Sherry, Ph.D.
Master of Environment and Natural Resources ‘12
Human Dimensions in Natural Resources ‘09
Wildlife Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Jennifer earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SENR. She went on to earn her Ph.D. at Charles Sturt University in Australia and now works as a Wildlife Advocate for large carnivores with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Her range of experience with the human dimensions of wildlife management have given her the expertise to mitigate conflict between property owners and carnivores including bears, wolves and mountain lions.
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A Glance at Jennifer’s Current Work
My current role is with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a large, international environmental advocacy organization. I work as a Wildlife Advocate, with a focus on large carnivores like bears, wolves and mountain lions. I am based in Bozeman, Montana, but I work throughout the Northern Rockies, the West Coast, and the Great Lakes states.
Up until this job, I worked exclusively as a researcher. Now, the work that I’m doing is much more applied and the results are more visible, even at a very small scale and in a short time frame. I find that really gratifying. I spend a lot of time behind a computer, but I also go out into the field and work on properties that are experiencing conflicts with large carnivores like wolves and bears. Sometimes that involves installing specialized fencing to protect livestock and deter carnivores, which can ultimately prevent both from being killed. Working outside helps me stay grounded in the realities of the issues and it’s really rewarding when we’ve been able to reach a win-win solution for both wildlife and people.
During my job search, it was really important to me that my values aligned with those of any advocacy organization I applied to work for. So, I tried to do some reading and figure out where various organizations stood on different environmental issues. I’m lucky to have found a job with a non-profit whose mission and goals I wholeheartedly support and am proud to work towards.
"All environmental issues inevitably have a human dimension to them. I think having at least some training in understanding how people relate to the environment and make decisions about the environment is extremely useful for a whole variety of environmental careers."
Involvement During College
During my years at OSU pursuing a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, I was involved with several research projects. When I worked as a Research Assistant for my supervisor, Dr. Eric Toman, part of my role was to act as a liaison between a group of interdisciplinary researchers who were all contributing to a comprehensive guide on wildfire and fuels management. It was great to get to speak with such a diverse group and to get exposure to broad expertise within the field of environment and natural resources.
Outside of my studies, I was involved with the Mountaineering Club of OSU. I had a great set of mentors there too. Through their guidance, I learned to navigate the mountains and realized the beauty of those landscapes and the unique threats faced by mountain people, plants and animals. This ultimately steered me towards my Ph.D. research in the Nepal Himalaya. I have a passion for protecting mountain landscapes and have lived and worked in mountainous regions ever since.
In the summers of 2011 and 2012, I accompanied my supervisor, Dr. Eric Toman, to help lead some of OSU’s first environmental-themed study abroad programs in Australia. The course examined the current and historical connections between humans and the environment. We coordinated with local partners, experts and guides to facilitate learning activities for a group of around 30 students. This included anything from accompanying researchers in a crane that looks down on the canopy of the world’s oldest rainforest, to conducting fish transects at the Great Barrier Reef, to spear hunting crabs with an aboriginal family.
All environmental issues inevitably have a human dimension to them. I think having at least some training in understanding how people relate to the environment and make decisions about the environment is extremely useful for a whole variety of environmental careers. My studies and research at OSU always had a social focus, and that has served me really well. The social science courses I took, taught by Dr. Robyn Wilson, Dr. Eric Toman and Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter have undoubtedly been the most important part of my education that informs what I do now. I have found that these lessons and skills are highly transferable to all sorts of environmental fields. The work I do now to protect grizzly bears, wolves and other wildlife is mostly about learning to understand people and working collaboratively to achieve better outcomes for wildlife.
I recently shifted my career focus from disaster risk reduction to human-wildlife conflict. The diversity in my background has turned out to be really valuable because I bring a fresh perspective to the issues I work on now. I frequently apply lessons from the long-established disaster management field to the comparably younger field of human-wildlife conflict. What I expected would be a disadvantage, turned out to be an advantage.
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Post created March 2020