Above photo courtesy of PPCN Graduate Claire Hood. 

M'Shae Alderman (PPCN, 2014) received a BS in Natural Resource Conservation and Management with a concentration in wildlife ecology from University of Kentucky, not far from where she grew up. As an undergraduate, she volunteered at a primate rescue center, studied community-wildlife interactions in Kenya, and interned at Floracliff Nature Sanctuary, a local nature preserve that promoted public education.  Following graduation, M'Shae  spent more than three years working for The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C., where she lobbied Congress and executive agencies in support of responsible management and protection of American public lands. 

Jen Austin (CONS, 2014)  graduated summa cum laude from Colorado State University in 2009, with a major in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology.  In New York, Jen worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildlife inspector and enforced the Endangered Species Act and CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).  Prior to her work as an inspector, Jen conducted wildlife and habitat surveys for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service.  Jen is a Coast Guard veteran and worked in southeast Alaska, the Bering Sea and the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean. 

Melanie Beaver (CONS, 2014) graduated from Washington College with a BA in Environmental Studies, with minors in Biology and Economics.  Melanie has spent a year interning for NOAA at the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve in Homer, Alaska.  After studying in both Ecuador and Puerto Rico, Melanie spent a year working at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore as an Animal Keeper.

Jim Beck (CONS, 2003) is on a long-term assignment as a Partnership Coordinator and International Programs Liaison in the National Partnership Office of the U.S. Forest Service, based in Washington, D.C. In this capacity, he works to increase the agency's effectiveness in partnership and collaboration with citizens, communities, non-profit organizations, among others.  His regular job is a Program Manager in the Technical Cooperation Unit of the U.S. Forest Service Office of International Programs, based in Washington, D.C. He develops and implements technical cooperation and exchange programs, bringing the skills and experiences of the USFS to bear on the resource management challenges faced by government and non-governmental partners in Africa.  Bringing lessons learned back to the US is also an important part of the mission. 

Over the last seventeen years, Jim has focused primarily on international natural resource management issues in Africa with a variety of leading science-based environmental NGOs, initiatives, and government agencies.  He has served as a project manager (World Resources Institute and Wildlife Conservation Society), coordinator (NOAA), researcher (Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, and graduate student), recruiter (Peace Corps), instructor (University of Maryland), and outreach/extension agent (Peace Corps Gabon).  He received a B.A. in Biology from Albion College and his MS from CONS. 

Carlos Disla (CONS, 2014) graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia with a BA in Biology and Environmental Science.  He has interned at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, where he did research on blue crabs and fish sampling, at the Marine Fish Conservation Network, where he worked on seafood traceability, and with the NASA DEVELOP program, where he used satellite imagery to map mangrove changes over time in Myanmar.  He is currently an intern with Oceana's seafood science program and hopes to find a full time job working on international fisheries policy.


Gretchen Downey (CONS, 2014) graduated from the University of Maryland in 2012 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy.  She immediately jumped into the CONS program and finished her MS in 2014.  While a student at UMD, Gretchen studied abroad in both Belize and Costa Rica.  During the summers she worked at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo and the Trego Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.  Her extended time in DC also found her as an intern with the National Zoological Park in the Bird House and the Great Ape House.  Her research has helped to inform the Great Ape House as they look to improve educational opportunities.  As a CONS alum, Gretchen will be earning her Masters in the Art of Teaching in May 2015 from Frostburg State University.  She hopes to be teaching high school biology by this time next year!

Rachel Golden (CONS, 2013) is currently working as a Science Fellow at Oceana, focusing on seafood mislabeling, fraud, and traceability for the Stop Seafood Fraud campaign.  In Spring 2014, she coordinated with her campaign at Oceana to work with one of our CONS Problem Solving teams!  She will be attending George Mason University for her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy starting in fall 2014.  While in CONS, she held various positions including Environmental Science and Policy teaching assistant, GIS intern with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and Protected Areas intern at WWF.  She focused her master's research on protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD) in North America and explored the connection between legal changes to protected areas and habitat fragmentation.  For this project, she worked under the advisement of Dr. Bill Fagan and WWF Staff.  She plans to continue focusing on protected areas for her Ph.D. studies in the Amazon with a focus on evaluating the effectiveness of protected areas by incorporating spatial analyses and social science. 

Christine Hodgdon (CONS, 2007) is currently the International Conservation Manager at the Rainforest Trust where she manages a diverse portfolio of conservation projects across the tropics in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Though originally from Pittsburgh, Christine gained nearly 10 years of experience in the D.C. area  supporting conservation and environmental initiatives first as a primate conservation program intern at the National Zoological Park working with golden lion tamarins.  During her time working at the zoo, she learned about the CONS Program and became an official CONS student in 2005 where she completed a research and conservation planning internship at the World Wildlife Fund, and worked to help launch the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration as part of the CONS problem solving course.  She completed the CONS program in 2007 and soon after joined the Peace Corps where she spent two years in Guatemala implementing indigenous-led and community-based ecotourism projects.  She is thrilled to be back in the D.C. area working for Rainforest Trust's mission to purchase and protect threatened tropical forests and save endangered wildlife through community engagement and local partnerships. 

Claire Hood (PPCN, 2014) is currently a Wyss Fellow at World Wildlife Fund in Bozeman, MT.  Her work centers on wind energy and transmission development on public lands in the Northern Great Plains and their impacts on biodiversity and fragmentation of the landscape.  While in the PPCN Program, her coursework and research focused on public land management, wildlife management and environmental policy.  Additionally, the CONS program's fantastic alumni network enable her to get internships at several nonprofits in DC, including Amazon Conservation Association and American Rivers, as well as a Pathways position with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  She also had the opportunity to plan and coordinate a graduate level course to Indonesia focused on socio-ecological systems.  With her PPCN degree, she plans to develop a career in public lands management in the West. 

Kate Ortenzi (CONS, 2013) graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo with a BA in English Literature and minors in Spanish and Sociology.  She served as a City Year, Washington, DC, AmeriCorps Member for two years, first teaching HIV/AIDS prevention education, and then as the Project Leader for Civic Engagement where she started learning gardens in four elementary schools in DC.  Afterwards, she moved to NYC to intern at the Clinton Foundation and manage a Slow Food Neighborhood Farms startup initiative in Brooklyn, NY.  Kate has even spent time teaching in Chile and the Republic of Georgia. 

Jessica B. Turner (CONS, 2011) is currently entering her fourth year as a Conservation Fellow and Biology Doctoral Candidate at West Virginia University.  Her dissertation is investigating the relationship between medicinal plant conservation and surface mining in Appalachia.  At West Virginia University, she bas been able to research a broad conservation issue as well as participate in climate change research in Northern Alaska.  Jessica is currently a Phipps Botany in Action Fellow, active in improving networking opportunities at WVU, and webmaster for wildginsengconservation.com.  Additionally, she helps develop conservation focused workshops and events, for individuals ranging in age from children to retirees.  

Ashlee Walker (CONS, 2014) graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a B.S. in Environmental Science & Policy, focusing on biodiversity and conservation biology.  During her undergraduate years, she gained research experience working at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  Her studies abroad in Belize and South Africa solidified her interests in environmental issues, particularly within international communities.