Students Receive International Experiences in Conservation Leadership Scholarship
By Dawson Metcalf
The newly established International Experiences in Conservation Leadership scholarship supported its first two Conservation Leadership through Learning students in program in 2018. The scholarship intends to support applied conservation work in immersive cross-cultural settings.
Bill Guyton, a Colorado State University alumnus who created the IECL scholarship at CSU, said his life changed forever in 1983 after a study abroad experience in southern Africa to study natural resource management. Since, he’s completed a master’s degree in agricultural economics, and works with food companies and governments to build more environmentally sustainable practices for cocoa, cotton, cashew and feed grains production.
Through the scholarship Guyton hopes to provide transformational opportunities to students, similar to his experience. “Supporting students with international experiences can open minds and understandings of people and conditions in other parts of the world,” said Guyton. “Through international research, students can learn more about the importance of conservation, which will hopefully have a positive influence on their careers paths.”
CLTL prepares leaders to address complex conservation issues at local, regional and global scales. Students partner with conservation organizations to carry out a four-month capstone project. Timothy Merlino and Emily Neidhardt were the inaugural recipients of the award in 2018.
Merlino partnered with the Grevy’s Zebra Trust in the community rangelands of northern Kenya to collect local knowledge about changes in the endangered Grevy’s Zebra behavior, which are potentially linked to growing human settlements, climate change, and disease. Merlino, along with his project partner and the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, developed a disease symptom worksheet to mitigate the spread of disease from livestock. The team also created a children’s storybook, written in both English and Kiswahili, to communicate cultural and ecological knowledge beneficial to the long-term conservation of the Grevy’s zebra.
“One of the most poignant lessons CLTL taught me was the value of listening and setting aside my own upbringing, perceptions, and education to better understand the perspectives of those that I work with. I hope to use this experience to support inclusive community-based conservation here in the United States and wherever my career takes me in the future,” Merlino explained.
Neidhardt partnered with the Belizean marine conservation organization, Blue Ventures, to advance the organization’s commitment to commercializing the invasive lionfish. Surveying consumers, Neidhardt assessed the perceptions and market viability of lionfish in the local community. She recommended the need for a community-based social marketing campaign to change consumer perceptions about lionfish and developed a “Fisher Directory” to streamline collaborative efforts between local fishermen and restaurants.
Guyton hopes other alumni will see that for a relatively small contribution, they can make a significant impact on the next generation of conservation leaders. Guyton shared that he has already seen this first hand last year’s scholarship recipients.
Brett Bruyere, CLTL director, noted the importance of Guyton’s initiative. “Through Bill’s generosity and vision, the first of many students to come had a life-changing experience living and working abroad. Nothing makes the conservation lessons we teach more salient than an immersive and applied experience. Students carry that with them for their entire careers in conservation.”
CLTL is offered by the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resourcesin the Warner College of Natural Resources at CSU.