Ben grew up on the rolling hills of the Palouse. That picturesque beauty, however, belied the fact that native Palouse prairie was functionally extinct as an ecosystem. This upbringing fostered a deep concern for the impact that humans were having on the natural world alongside an understanding of the struggles and motivations that are most important to farming communities such as those found on the Palouse. Years of biological field work throughout the Pacific Northwest reiterated in Ben’s mind the need for understanding on either side of the conservation debate and that the “us vs. them” mentality would never be able to solve the big problems facing the environment at large. These experiences inspired Ben to work with Michael and Chris to form the Phoenix Conservancy with the goal of fostering understanding and taking concrete steps to restore and regenerate endangered ecosystems while bringing economic value to the communities most in touch with them.
Michael is a wildlife biologist and a PhD candidate in biology with a passion for wildlife conservation. After earning a Bachelors degree in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology from the University of California at Davis Michael worked with a diverse array of species in many habitats throughout the United States that ultimately led to his current work with brown bears on the Alaska Peninsula and in Washington State. His passion for wildlife conservation began at an early age on family camping trips to National Parks throughout the west. Today Michael can most often be found watching bears, moose, lynx, and wolves on the Alaska Peninsula or in the woods of Washington and Idaho with a pair of binoculars and a spotting scope.
Chris is a PhD biology student at Washington State University, teacher, and an avid lifelong conservationist and outdoorsman. He has as MS in biology from Syracuse University, and a BS in biology from Western Washington University. The ideas of restoration and conservation entered Chris’s life at an early age. Fortunate enough to have forest near his home, he spent his childhood playing and learning in the woods. As he grew up, many of these cherished forests were cleared and paved. The sense of profound loss from seeing his old haunts destroyed left a deep and permanent impression, one which still drives his passion for conservation today. With that in mind, Chris set out to restore and conserve as much of this land as possible in this crucial window, for the maximum possible benefit for the ecosystem and the people that depend on it. The Phoenix Conservancy was founded on these basic ideals. Their pragmatic, science-backed, maximum benefit per input, ecosystem-scale restoration approach is a lifelong dream come true for Chris. He can’t imagine a better cause to dedicate his life to, and is thrilled to work every day to save the world’s ecosystems through The Phoenix Conservancy.
Alex is a PhD student at Washington State University working towards characterizing the adaptive potential of Tasmanian devil populations in the face of a transmissible facial cancer (devil facial tumor disease). Her desire to study adaptation stemmed from her initial passion for understanding how all different organisms survived in a variety of environments. Years of moving from place to place and seeing the impacts that urbanization, deforestation and other forms of anthropogenic disturbance on community compositions all over the United States and abroad left her with the drive to make a difference. Experiences such as these inspired Alex to be a part of the Phoenix Conservancy to try to restore species and landscapes that are going extinct due to human causes. Her role as the communications director allows her to communicate with the greater public and advocate for environmental change.
Kayla is a PhD Student in Environmental and Natural Resource Science at Washington State University, seeking to use systems dynamics to model the bigger picture implications of restoration, based on a community’s ecological sense of place. Growing up in Ontario and exploring lakes and rivers while camping with her family lead her to develop a love for the great, snow-covered outdoors. While collaborating on restoring the native riparian area of a local creek restoration during her masters, she became fascinated with creating hands on restoration opportunities for the local community, providing direct interactions with the soil, native plants, and aquatic organisms to foster a better connection to place. Her role as the internship and outreach coordinator allows her to provide a larger platform for people to experience nature, further the longevity of restoration stewardship, in addition to teaching young scientists how to convey the implications of small actions in restoration.
Lauren grew up in the Portland Oregon and graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor’s in environmental science. Since graduating she has worked with various non-profits along the Pacific Coast focusing on public outreach and environmental education. These experiences further motivated her to continue working with volunteers from the community to improve their local ecosystems in Seattle Washington. Seeing the change that can be accomplished when a community unites is what continues to inspire her and what attracted her most to the Phoenix Conservancy. As Project Manager here in Pullman she is most excited about getting to know this amazing community of people, and with their help restore what remains of the beautiful Palouse Prairie.