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