This March, to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, SCB North America is highlighting women in conservation who inspire us.

Today we’re speaking with Dr. Aby Sène-Harper. We asked her to share a little about what she does and about her experience as a woman in conservation.

I am an assistant professor in conservation area management at Clemson University. As an environmental social scientist, my research has evolved in relation to the social, ecological and political contexts of our time. My focus has predominantly been on community-based conservation, protected area management and rural livelihoods. The past 2 years, however, have made it abundantly clear that we are living in an era of heightened awareness of racial injustices and a deepening ecological crisis that disproportionately impacts Black and Indigenous people around the world. The urgency of the moment has forced me to redirect my scholarship towards a more radical transformation of the social and global order. To quote Native American environmental activist, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, “Colonization is inherently an environmental justice issue,” and I believe this to be true for colonized people around the world who are still living in the grips of settler and neo-colonialism. In fact, many Black revolutionaries understood that the only way to address the ecological crisis is through full decolonization, as in the repatriation of Indigenous land and life. Conservationists often treat colonization as a thing of the past, when conservation programs continue to reproduce colonial power relations that exacerbate environmental destruction. Therefore, my work today engages more anti-colonial and Black radical thought to examine the imbrication of colonization, environmental destruction and injustices, and Black peoples’ political struggle.

I am a Black woman in the conservation field and the intersectionality of my race and gender poses some challenges and opportunities at the same time. Although I am dedicated to conservation issues, I also feel a strong responsibility to respond to the political and social needs of Black people. So, I am always in a constant internal struggle to balance these priorities. On top of that, as a Black woman working in a white male dominated field and even department, it can feel very isolating at times. Even if women are more represented today than they were before, it’s predominantly white women who are represented. But there are far more Black women across the globe engaged in conservation than we are aware of, and unfortunately several factors inhibit their visibility. That includes the lack of resources to access public platforms. There is also a tendency of the conservation movement to sideline Black and Indigenous women to instead amplify white women’s voices. This is exemplified in the amount of publicity Greta Thunberg and Jane Goodall have received in comparison to Vanessa Nakate and Wangari Maathai, and the countless Indigenous women activists who are in the front line of these issues. We must move beyond the colonial images of white women and men doing conservation work in Africa and highlight the extensive and everyday work that Black and Indigenous women are doing in conservation. We must be open to the ways Black and Indigenous women understand and choose to address conservation issues, because the aspirations and values systems of Black and Indigenous women are rooted in their social and political realities and often differ from those of white women. 


Thank you so much to Dr. Sène-Harper for sharing her experiences with us. To keep up with her work, follow her on Twitter at @AbySene9.

Check out stories from other women we’ve highlighted this month:

This March, to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, SCB North America is highlighting women in conservation who inspire us.

Kelly Zenkewich is the Communications and Digital Engagement Manager at the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. We asked her to share about her experience as a woman in conservation and who inspires her.

Looking back, my earliest memories of being interested in conservation were tied to writing or communicating in some way. From my early years of eagerly waiting for deliveries of Ranger Rick magazine to later making my own “newspapers” about mountain gorilla conservation, I always cared about nature. Later on I created my own field guide to the lizards and insects I saw in my backyard in southern Thailand and I definitely read every informational placard while visiting the Singapore Zoo, irritating my family to no end. From where I am now, it seems so obvious this was a route I’d take.

Yet for many years I was unsure of how I could combine my personal passions, academic knowledge, and professional interests. During my undergrad in biological sciences, lab or field work never really appealed to me so I worked at a newspaper for a while, but everything came together when I joined Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. We’re an international environmental non-profit with a big mission: to connect and protect habitat so that people and nature thrive. This work doesn’t get done alone, so we collaborate with hundreds of partners on conservation projects in the region stretching from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to Canada’s Yukon Territory.

There, as communications and digital engagement manager, I get to do the things I love most: help translate science so it’s accessible and actionable, inspire folks who are passionate about the people, places and wildlife in the Yellowstone to Yukon region to get involved, and share incredible photos and stories. I consider myself science-adjacent, but my work is completely fulfilling and in a role I did not even knew existed when I was in university.

Being a woman in conservation shapes my world view and approach. For one, I try to be aware of representation and inclusion in the ways I communicate, make decisions, and how I spotlight others. This applies to the stories and content we share at Y2Y, and in the groups I work in, too. While my work doesn’t take me into the field much, being a female hunter conservationist has been an incredible experience — I cherish this way of connecting with nature and culture.

Working in conservation can be challenging, so it pays to find a good crew of tough people and mentors who challenge and support you. For me, some of those people happen to be amazing women. Y2Y has an incredible array of scientists, advocates, communicators, and conservationists on our board and staff who drive me to be better everyday — the things they accomplish astound me. Their passion is contagious.

My friends also inspire me: many are women in science working on research and issues related to climate change, raptors, remediation, and marine conservation regionally and globally, so I am incredibly lucky to be a part of their world. These women are making a difference — I’m happy to be there to assist.


Thank you so much to Kelly for sharing her experiences with us. Keep up with Y2Y and see Kelly’s work in action at:

About Y2Y: http://y2y.net/about

Instagram @y2y_initiative/ 

Twitter @Y2Y_Initiative

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Yellowstone2Yukon/


Check out stories from other women we’ve highlighted this month:

This March, to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, SCB North America is highlighting women in conservation who inspire us.

Today we’re talking with Dr. Alysha Cypher. We asked her to share a little about what she does, about her experience as a woman in conservation, and to name a woman who inspires her.

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Prince William Sound Science Center in Cordova Alaska. I’m a conservation scientist at heart but have worked in toxicology, physiology, and now I am working on migration patterns of Pacific herring using acoustic telemetry.  Science is a labor of love and my connection with nature has driven my career. I owe that in part to Rachel Carson. I’ve read all her books and am from a similar area in western Pennsylvania. We both grew up daydreaming about the ocean and her words seemed to always describe exactly how I felt about nature. The woman could make seaweed sound like the best thing since sliced bread.

I think it’s an exciting time to be a woman in conservation science.  Over the next couple decades we will see a shift in empowerment at the higher levels of academia and government that will better represent the diversity of people who actually work in this field. It’s already happening and other areas of STEM need to catch up.


Thank you so much to Dr. Cypher for sharing her experiences with us. Check out stories from other women we’ve highlighted this month:

This March, to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, SCB North America is highlighting women in conservation who inspire us.

Today we are paying tribute to an early career scientist, Dr. Adrian Dahood-Frtiz, who passed away tragically in an accident in late 2019.

Dr. Dahood-Fritz was a passionate advocate for science and conservation as well as a high achieving researcher. Her dissertation on marine protected area placement in Antarctica won her department’s Greatest Impact Award and her complex ecological modeling of marine protection areas was published this past summer, which provided new methods to understand MPA effectiveness in the context of climate change. In April of 2019 she had begun work as a Senior Scientist and Policy Advisor for the Ocean Protection Council of California that coordinates agency actions and develops policy for marine resources. Her loss is felt throughout the conservation and marine science communities and we cherish her memory as a colleague and friend. 


See her eulogies from George Mason University and the Ocean Protection Council. This piece was shared by Chelsie Romulo.

This March, to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, SCB North America is highlighting women in conservation who inspire us.

We asked Dr. Rachel Golden Kroner to share a little bit about her career, her experiences as a woman in conservation, and about women who inspire her.

I am a conservation social scientist, fundamentally motivated by concern for the state of our planet and belief in the moral imperative for action. Research and evidence-based policy are an important part of shaping a more sustainable future. I take an interdisciplinary approach to research, focus on area-based conservation systems like protected areas, and study how they change over time. At Conservation International, I lead the global PADDDtracker initiative, which studies and raises awareness of legal rollbacks to protected areas and applies insights to inform conservation policy and practice. You can learn more about my research here.

As a woman conservation, I recognize the strides we have made, but also see how far we have to go. Across fields, we have not reached parity in terms of women in leadership positions or equitable pay. All of us can and should be part of the solution. Instead of telling women to “lean in” or that they have “imposter syndrome,” everyone – especially those with more power – can work to create more just, diverse, inclusive, and equitable cultures through our personal and professional spheres of influence. Specifically for scientists, this includes: citing and nominating women; collaborating with women in proposals, publications and conference symposia; and hiring, paying equitably, promoting, and listening to women. This requires a daily practice (by men and women!), and involves checking ones biases around each decision and interaction. In the long term, I think we should aim for a world in which we celebrate the achievements of women and men on their merits every day – not just on days like International Women’s Day.

I am inspired by any woman in conservation who has persisted through challenges and holds strong – there are so many! I am especially inspired by the women on the front lines, leading their communities in securing their rights, opposing unwanted development projects, and pushing for systemic change at the grassroots level. These environmental defenders face some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable to protect their communities and environments.


Thank you so much to Dr. Golden Kroner for sharing with us. You can keep up with her work by following her on Twitter at @RachGolden and on LinkedIn.


Check out the previous women in conservation we’ve highlighted this month.

This March, to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, SCB North America is highlighting women in conservation who inspire us.

We asked Dr. Chelsie Romulo to share a little bit about her career and her experiences as a woman in conservation.

Chelsie Romulo is a professor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies at the University of Northern Colorado. Her research spans several resource management contexts, but consistently seeks to understand what works and why to explain what contextual characteristics result in impacts and outcomes. She uses mixed methods approaches to integrate quantitative and qualitative data that can be applied to many different management and policy situations and frequently make use of existing data in new contexts. A former SESYNC graduate student pursuit member and Smithsonian-Mason Doctoral Fellow in Conservation, her dissertation research focused on community-based natural resource management in the Peruvian Amazon. Another aspect of her research interests delves into evaluating enabling conditions for payments for ecosystem services programs using big data machine learning models. She is currently PI of an NSF IUSE grant using machine learning techniques as an assessment tool to understand how students learn complex sustainability topics.

Every time I’m asked about inspirational leaders, I always point out Dr. Ellie Sattler from the 1993 Jurassic Park movie. Seeing that movie as a young child was hugely influential because this was the first time I ever saw a woman on the big screen whose main character trait was being a respected scientist and expert (For older audiences, I’d also point out Ripley in the Alien movies as an earlier movie example). I don’t think it had even occurred to me before that point that I could be a scientist or what a scientist could look like. I think it’s so important for young people to be able to see themselves in future careers.  


Thank you so much to Dr. Romulo for sharing with us. You can keep up with her work by following her on Twitter @ChelsieRomulo.


Check out the previous women in conservation we’ve highlighted this month.

This March, to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, SCB North America is highlighting women in conservation who inspire us.

We would like to introduce you first to Dr. Sheila Colla. Dr. Colla is an Assistant Professor, York Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Conservation Science, and Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change at York University. We asked her to share a little about what she does, about her experience as a woman in conservation, and to name a woman who inspires her.

I am a conservation scientist researching wild bumblebees in Canada and the USA. In addition to studying their ecology and conservation status, I’ve recently moved my research program into understanding stakeholder perception and disrupting mainstream narratives. I help run the community science program BumbleBeeWatch and co-authored “The Bumblebees of North America: an identification guide” (Princeton University Press 2014). For SCBNA, I’m on the EDI and policy committees and am the North American Coordinator for the IUCN SSC Bumblebees Specialist Group. 

Being a woman, and a woman of colour, in conservation is extremely challenging, despite the many privileges I have. Despite my accomplishments, my expertise is often overlooked, especially in the field of entomology which is very much white, male-dominated. I have had grants rejected because I am “too much of an activist and not a scientist” because I call out injustices and broader oppressive systems as I see them. I have left committees where I see racism and sexism run rampant. I avoid conferences and social events which lack diversity. Now that I’ve moved into a new stage of my career, I am lucky to be able to be more selective and to surround myself with folks I trust and give my energy where I think it is valued. 

In terms of inspiration, the climate justice writer Mary Heglar wins as someone everyone should know and follow. Her piece “Home Is Always Worth It” is incredible. It serves as a reminder that despite all the struggles we face, socially and environmentally, the work we do is still important and worthy. 


Thank you so much to Dr. Colla for sharing her experiences with us. To keep up with her work, follow her here:

Lab research: www.savethebumblebees.ca

Finding Flowers Project: http://findingflowers.ca/

YorkU BeeC Research Group: bees.yorku.ca

Twitter: @savewildbees