In a year that’s brought the world so many unexpected twists and turns, the Aldo Leopold Foundation Future Leaders Program continues apace—even though the starting line was moved from spring to late summer. The global pandemic of COVID-19 required a cautious approach, but now that our 2020-21 cohort has arrived and settled in for the year, they’re already making up for lost time in the field and behind their desks.
Watch this blog for much more about and from Alex, Annie, Emily and Kyra! For now, here are brief introductions to our four new friends and partners in practicing and fostering Leopold’s land ethic.
Alex Belisle (Land Stewardship) grew up spending his summers exploring his grandparents’ property in northern Wisconsin. As time went by, he became very intrigued by the natural workings and beauty of Wisconsin, and by extension our world. When the opportunity came to pursue a higher education at the University of Wisconsin Platteville, he decided to major in electrical engineering. To his surprise—after many sleepless nights of doing calculus homework and a few existential crises—he figured out he was the happiest being outdoors. Alex realized that his calling was to work restoring and conserving our natural areas. At the end of his 3rd year of college, he switched majors to Reclamation, Environment, and Conservation. Alex inadvertently became the president of the UW-Platteville Reclamation club, where he worked to conserve the natural areas on campus, and he spent his last summer in college interning with a private restoration company where he was able to gain hands-on experience restoring many different natural areas in southern Wisconsin. His only regret is that he didn’t answer nature’s call sooner and switch majors before his 3rd year of college.
Annie Edwards (Land Stewardship) grew up in California where her favorite activity was going on hikes with friends. After walking a countless number of miles past oak trees and through golden grasses, Annie decided that she wanted to dedicate her future career to protecting our environment. This motivation pushed her to hop across the country and pursue a degree in Soil Science and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For the past two summers, she has worked in an Organic and Sustainable Agricultural Research Lab. There, she has been running around corn and soybean fields as she collects data to fuel her understanding of sustainable agriculture. Her focus has been reducing erosion and promoting the life of the entire ecosystem. Annie is ecstatic to be a Land Steward Fellow and hopes to engage in Leopold’s idea of the land ethic. Her personal goal is to learn how to incorporate agricultural demands with symbiotic environmental reform.
Growing up on an acreage near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Emily Oyos (Education and Communication) spent much of her childhood exploring the land in her own backyard. Numerous family vacations to state and national parks helped to further spark her interest in nature and conservation. In 2019, Emily graduated from Augustana University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Spanish and an emphasis in Ecology and Environmental Science. Throughout the past three years, she has worked teaching environmental education and outdoor skills to people of all ages. She is excited to learn even more about environmental education and to help educate future generations about conservation, land use, and sustainability. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling, hiking, cooking, and playing the clarinet and piano.
As a fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation, Kyra Lyons (Education and Communication) is excited to find new ways to relay the idea of the land ethic to broad audiences. Throughout her college career, Kyra learned how important community-building is to a successful society and became more aware of land’s integral role in communities. Kyra’s excited to make connections at the Aldo Leopold Foundation, to continue to learn about and foster a land ethic, and to discover a common ground in which everyone can adopt their own land ethic. She hopes to engage what she has learned while earning Bachelor’s degrees in English & Film Studies at Trinity College to become a better educator and communicator in this role. Kyra is an Illinoisian with an affinity for Wisconsin’s nature, and grew up trekking through the Northwoods while her Grandpa taught her to identify various animal tracks. She’s excited to return to that nature and invite others to join her as she welcomes visitors to the Aldo Leopold Foundation!