Global Change Fellow Kathryn Jewell Wants to Increase Collaboration in Wildlife Conservation
Kathryn Jewell is a master’s student studying fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology. Her research focuses on the human dimensions of wildlife management, with a goal of increasing collaboration in solving wildlife conservation challenges.
Kathryn was recently named a Global Change Fellow, a program designed to support students interested in multi-disciplinary research. We asked Kathryn to tell us more about her research and what led her to study fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology.
What encouraged you to enter your field of study?
From a very young age, my dad took me fishing almost every weekend, leading me to a love of the outdoors. This led me to pursue a degree in zoology from NC State, and along the way I found myself gravitating towards wildlife biology classes. I then chose to double major in zoology and fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology.
A part of the wildlife biology curriculum is a class specializing in the human dimensions of wildlife management, taught by my now-advisor, Dr. Nils Peterson. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school as my next step, and when the research project I’m working on was advertised, I knew I wanted to apply. I’ve always found people fascinating, and human dimensions provides an excellent bridge between my interests.
What is the focus of your research?
I am situated in a sub-field of wildlife biology that focuses on the human dimensions of wildlife management. This means interacting with people on various topics, and in my case, learning people’s opinions of wildlife conservation challenges.
This is a topic that’s been studied before, but I am taking a qualitative approach, meaning I’m focusing more on quotes and words than numbers, and my study population is actually one that is not studied very often – wildlife agency decision makers. By decision makers, I mean the directors and supervisory board members of wildlife agencies. Their perspectives are important to understand because the supervisory board members represent the voice of the public in addition to providing oversight of the agency.
How do you hope to make an impact through your research?
My research highlights areas for potential collaboration between user groups, meaning that by documenting decision makers’ concerns, others who are also concerned about specific issues can work together. Wildlife does not respect political boundaries, and increased collaboration is an effective method for solving larger global challenges. It is my hope that by completing this research, there will be greater understanding between decision makers and their employees and constituents.
How has the College of Natural Resources helped you along the way?
The College of Natural Resources has helped me immensely along the way. The faculty and staff are world class and care deeply about their students. Throughout my entire academic career, resources were available for anything and everything I could need.
My first research experience was bolstered by the CNR Enrichment Fund in 2018, and that provided invaluable experience that led to my graduate position. Further, I was awarded a fellowship from the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources.
What advice do you have for those who want to enter this field?
There is a lot of power in who you know. During your undergraduate experience, it’s so important to get to know your professors, not to mention your peers. Chances are, people you’re in classes with now will be your colleagues and collaborators later on.
Also, get involved. Being involved with clubs and volunteering on research projects will further connect you with professionals in the field.
Finally, I would have a diversity of experiences. There is value in having a variety of experiences in order to be more marketable for whatever you want to do, graduate school or otherwise. Not only will this allow you to be more marketable, you’ll understand what you like to do a little better.
What future aspirations do you have in your field of study?
Ultimately, I want to do research. However, how that happens is yet to be determined. I’ll be graduating in May 2021, and I have not entirely decided if I want to start on a Ph.D. right away or if I want to get some job training first. It will really depend on what is available at the time, as no one will know what the world will look like.