Leaders in the Field: From YCC to a Conservation Career

Anelise in Kodiak

YCC at cabinLeading a crew of high school students on week-long work projects in the rugged backcountry of Kodiak Refuge is not for the faint of heart. The work can be grueling – like digging a new outhouse hole for a public use cabin – and the logistics complicated.

For the young women who have led our Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program since 2009, the challenge is welcome… and often an opportunity to continue developing the leadership and career skills they learned as students in the corps.

This Women’s History Month, we caught up with a previous crew leader and asked a few questions about her experience as a young leader in conservation. Prepare to be impressed.

Anelise Zimmer
Training to be an Environmental Compliance Manager for Ocean Beauty Seafoods
2017 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia 

Anelise literally grew up with Kodiak Refuge programs: as a toddler in the FUN program, through the elementary school years of Salmon Camp, as a volunteer instructor for the camp, and then working with us as a YCC member in 2012 during her senior year of high school and as a crew leader in 2013 and 2016. She has a passion for place and a dedication to conservation and public engagement.

Why did you want to lead a YCC crew?

Anelise water samplingMy summer as a YCC crew member was extremely influential and my crew leader in 2012, Liz Allard, and the Refuge's environmental education specialist, Shelly Lawson, became two of my biggest role models.

After working on the crew, I couldn't resist the opportunity to apply and lead fellow young environmentalists in exciting and important environmental conservation work in the breathtakingly gorgeous Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge!

How did your experience influence your career and education decisions?

I truly fell in love with Kodiak's natural environment during the time I spent working in the field with YCC, and I believe that passion is what fueled my decision to major in environmental science. I had countless hands-on opportunities to learn about ecology and also how policy directly influences the health of our Earth and therefore, humans. While studying in this field, I learned even more about environmental issues ranging from climate change to environmental justice and I grew more interested in the complex relationships that humans have with the Earth. I definitely credit YCC and my upbringing on Kodiak for the direction I have chosen for my education and career.

What are you doing now?

Anelise in MalaysiaUpon my return to the US from Malaysia, where I was serving as Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, I began working with Ocean Beauty Seafoods. I am in training to be the environmental compliance manager, which means I will be responsible for ensuring that OBS' seafood processing plants and distribution centers in Alaska and the lower 48 are complying with environmental regulations. Since I studied environmental science and politics in undergrad, I couldn't be happier to have a job that directly applies my degree in an industry I care about. In the future, I hope to earn a Master's degree in environmental policy or public health.

Do you have a conservation hero/role model?

While living on Malaysian Borneo last year, I met a woman named Sylvia Ng who is playing a large role in conserving the orangutans and jungle habitat of Borneo. It is evident that her tireless work doing environmental education and research with the Wildlife Conservation Society is making a difference in the livelihood of jungle species. I also look up to Dr. Vandana Shiva, who is an environmental feminist who uses sustainable agriculture as a means for empowering women and protecting the environment.

Do you have any advice for youth who might want to follow your lead?

My advice is to volunteer as much as possible so that you can have a more clear idea of what you are interested in pursuing in your education and career. Volunteering is not only good for the earth and your community, but it can also lead to job opportunities for you down the road. I also highly advise young people to become engaged in politics. Politics have a negative reputation in our society, but policies dictate so much of our social and natural world that it is crucial to engage and to have your voice heard.

Thanks, Anelise! 
Watch: a short video Anelise made about her 2016 YCC experience - "How to Have an Incredible Summer"