Alumni Spotlight

Since its beginnings in 1979, hundreds of thousands of students have participated in the Envirothon. Alumni can be found across the world, with many going on to successful careers in the environment and/or natural resources. These alumni are today’s forest rangers, climate change scientists, biologist, conservationists, soil scientists and more – all thanks to the Envirothon. Below are a few words from Envirothon alum about their experiance and where they are today!
We are always eager to hear from Envirothon alumni! Whether you competed at a local or international level, are in an environmental or natural resource related field of work or not, we would love to hear about what the Envirothon meant to you. Submit your Envirothon Alumni Story today and then connect with us on social media!

Crystal Powers: Nebraska Envirothon

Crystal Powers is the Research and Extension Communications Specialist for the Nebraska Water Center, Nebraska Extension, and Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska. Her role includes communication and coordination between academic faculty and water managers across the state to address water, food, and natural resource challenges. (click here to read more)
What inspired you to participate in the Envirothon program? I enjoyed knowledge-based competitions and Envirothon also brought in hands-on skills in beautiful settings.

How did your involvement in Envirothon influence your career goals? Envirothon gave me the opportunity to see careers that involved conservation. I realized I too had a passion for helping people through caring for our natural environment and enjoyed telling others about it. I saw how agriculture and the nature can work together. I went on to major in environmental engineering focused on agroecology as well as communicating the science. In my career I have continued that same focus of bringing people together to tackle some of the world's wicked problems.

Are there any skills that you learned through Envirothon that you currently use? Being observant of nature. Communicating science. Researching problems. Working as a team.

Your Envirothon experience in your own words... As a freshmen and sophomore, it was a great contest to get outdoors and combine knowledge across several different environmental topics. We made it to state both years and loved the opportunity to travel to state parks I had never seen. By my junior year, we had a really great team and were getting good at preparing for the special topics and presentations. We qualified for the international competition and traveled to the amazing Redwood forests of California which continue to inspire me to this day. Our senior year we were back with a few new team members and again qualified for internationals which took us to Nova Scotia. The Bay of Fundy was amazing and the glimpse into an maritime province was a great cultural experience for this 'land lubber.' Envirothon combined several of my passions: curiosity, nature, agriculture, competition, and travel.

What do you think students gain from participating in Envirothon? Better understanding of nature and conservation, seeing of agriculture and conservation can work together, love of the outdoors, meeting people from all over who also care about the environment, seeing new career opportunities.

Why should today's students choose to pursue environmental ecology, natural resource conservation and/or agriculture as a field of study? These disciplines are critical for the future. The very foundation of our cultures is based on providing food and clean water while finding ways to conserve beauty and cultural value of our landscape. Yet we are facing huge environmental challenges around water, climate, biodiversity, food, and health. Students can be a part of solving these wicked problems! They can become leaders in serving their communities and finding regenerative solutions for a better tomorrow.

Austin Hill: Nebraska Envirothon

Austin Hill is the Education Programs Supervisor for the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District in Nebraska. As a high school student, Austin participated for two years in the local Envirothon program through his high school. (click here to read more)
What inspired you to participate in the Envirothon program? I was fortunate to have a highly motivated teacher who encouraged his students to participate in as many science focused competitions and fairs as we can. It was a great opportunity to gauge our knowledge of the environment and how we stacked up to other schools in our region.

How did your involvement in Envirothon influence your career goals? I have always enjoyed getting outside and exploring the environment around me. Envirothon gave me an introduction into ways I can take that natural curiosity and intrigue, and utilize it for a career in one of the numerous environmental fields.

Are there any skills that you learned through Envirothon that you currently use? Skull I.D., secchi disk-water turbidity/quality, plant/animal I.D.

Your Envirothon experience in your own words... Growing up, I was lucky in that I had parents who gave me opportunities to free play and explore nature independently. I would wander out to the woods behind my house, make a tree fort, collect insects, and explore what I personally found interesting in nature. Fast forward to high school and those memories and experiences were great in shaping me but didn't have many opportunities to take that knowledge and put it to use. I took chemistry, biology, earth science... none delved into the specific topics I personally had an interested in. Having a competition like Envirothon, you can focus your attention on environmental issues and identification in your specific region, not tested on overarching scientific principles like what is common in high school education. It reinforced my interest and showed that this knowledge is applicable and inherently valuable.

What do you think students gain from participating in Envirothon? It gives students examples of some of the questions and issues professionals are trying to address and solve, usually with a tie to the local region. I think a lot of kids in high school think like I did when you mention environmental careers, you think Park Ranger. There are so many different jobs from diverse fields and the demand is only growing.

Why should today's students choose to pursue environmental ecology, natural resource conservation and/or agriculture as a field of study? I think humans are starting to wise up to the fact that our actions have and will continue to have a lasting impact on earth and the organisms it supports. Unfortunately, we are roughly 250 years late to the program, so we need to jumpstart career opportunities in the field to hopefully right the ship and minimize the lasting damage.

Stephanie Tolar: North Carolina Envirothon

Stephanie Tolar is the Education Specialist for the NCF-Envirothon. (click here to read more)
What inspired you to participate in the Envirothon program? From a young age, I was always curious and excited about nature. Envirothon helped me to develop that interest into a passion for ecology. I followed this passion throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, and eventually, this passion became my career.

I was involved in the Envirothon program throughout middle school and high school. I competed with my team at the international level twice, representing the state of North Carolina. During these years, I spent countless hours poring over study materials, quizzing my teammates, getting my hands dirty in a soil pit, debating eye socket placement on animal skulls, tromping through streams to find macroinvertebrates, and measuring basal area in my local forests. I was steeped in both the theoretical and practical knowledge of the natural world. I loved all of it. I loved reading about a concept in my Envirothon manual and then seeing it in real life on my next hike in the woods. I was inspired and challenged by the competition, going on to university to do research and study ecology.

When I arrived at university, I discovered that the depth and breadth of my knowledge was much more extensive than that of my classmates. I was able to tie in so many experiences from Envirothon, and it made my undergraduate degree a richly rewarding experience. I also used the scholarship money that I had earned at the international competition to fund a study abroad trip to the Galapagos Islands, where I spent a summer studying marine ecology and local conservation efforts in Ecuador.

I still wanted to learn more. I went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Biology, specializing in science education and ecology. Envirothon had inspired me to share my love of nature with others, and I became an environmental educator. I have worked in formal and informal teaching settings, both in the classroom and in the field. My journey has come full circle, and I now serve as the NCF-Envirothon Education Specialist.
Jordan Daigle Maine

Jordan Daigle: Maine Envirothon

Jordan is currently at Harvard University, majoring in Engineering Sciences with a focus on Chemistry. He is interested in how engineering can positively impact the environment. In the future, he wants to work in the field of water purification. (click here to read more)
How did you get involved with Envirothon? I got involved with Envirothon because of my mentor in high school. He had been my teacher in middle school, and he recommended that I get involved with Envirothon. He had always given me great advice, so I joined!

How were your experience with Envirothon? I attended the Maine State competition all four years of high school, and I attended three international competitions: Ontario, Maryland, and Idaho.

How/when did your interest in the environment start? My interest in the environment stems from my family. I would go fishing with my brother, father, and grandfather in some of the most pristine areas of Maine, near Mt. Katahdin. If you are ever lucky enough to visit Northern Maine, you would immediately understand why I became interested in environmental science. I am grateful for where I grew up, and I believe everybody should be able to enjoy nature in its purest form.

Are there any skills that you learned through Envirothon that you currently /continue to use? Absolutely. Of course, there are a lot of technical skills that I use in my classes, but I firmly believe that the skill I use the most is the way that Envirothon trains you to think. The problems in our world today are not one dimensional-- they are complex issues with no clear solution. Therefore, being able to think about creative solutions that are good for the environment, are economically feasible, and are good for society is critical for making any progress in issues such as climate change and water pollution. Being able to view a problem from more than just your point of view is not just helpful in a helpful in an academic sense, but also in the workplace and in society.

What do you think students gain from participating in Envirothon? I believe that if you fully immerse yourself in the Envirothon experience, you will gain problem solving skills, communication skills, presentation skills, a deep appreciation for the environment, and make connections with leaders in conservation.

Do you think Envirothon is a valuable program? Why? Of course! It will take you places that you would never go, it allows you to meet extremely intelligent and passionate people, and it teaches you about the natural world, business, much more. In fact, it was so valuable to me that I wrote about Envirothon in my college application essay.

All in all, did you enjoy your Envirothon experience? Yes! In high school, Envirothon was the most fulfilling extracurricular that I participated in. I love that Envirothon is a team activity, as you become very close with your teammates. The people are just one of the reasons that Envirothon is fun, but there are plenty of other reasons such as the swap meet and the field trip day.

Isabella Goodchild-Michelman: South Carolina Envirothon

Isabella is currently studying Molecular and Cellular biology at Harvard University with the eventual goal of becoming a biological engineer. (click here to read more)
How were your experiences with Envirothon? I have been to 3 South Carolina State Competitions and 2 International competitions (Idaho and North Carolina)

How/when did your interest in the environment start? My grandma has always been very passionate about environmental protection and so starting from when I was very little she ensured I had an appreciation for the environment and an understanding that it needs to be protected.

How did you get involved with Envirothon? My chemistry teacher Mr. Wilder (who went on to also be my AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science teacher) invited me to join our school’s team in the 10th grade.

Are there any skills that you learned through Envirothon that you currently /continue to use? Envirothon has taught me so many things! From very concrete skills like conducting a soil survey or being able to identify 40+ tree species to more general skills such as leadership, teamwork and presentation ability, I have learned so much over my three years of envirothon and I know I will use many of the skills I learned as I continue into college and the workforce.

What do you think students gain from participating in Envirothon? By participating in Envirothon students will gain a much deeper understanding of our natural world than they could solely from the classroom. The presentation component of the competition will give students valuable research, teamwork and presentation experience. Additionally, Envirothon exposes students to a variety of careers involving environmental protection and allows them to engage with professionals from these fields.

Do you think Envirothon is a valuable program? Why? Climate Change is increasingly becoming a threat to the welfare and happiness of people around the globe and our generation is the one that needs to come up with answers to fix it. Increasing awareness of environmental issues in students is one of the most important ways we can begin to address climate change and Envirothon is a program that does just that; by getting students excited about protecting the environment, Envirothon is helping to create a brighter future.

All in all, did you enjoy your Envirothon experience? Envirothon was one of (if not the most) meaningful extracurricular I did in high school. I would not be the student (and future scientist) I am today without it.
Seth Hardinv2

Seth Harden: Indiana Envirothon

Seth Harden works for The Nature Conservancy. (click here to read more)
When you land in your dream job and get deep into the daily tasks, you often forget to reflect and consider just how fortunate you are. In the constant inertia of project management, I often take my role for granted. I have become one of those conservation professionals who does real science outdoors and get paid to do it.

But, it is so much more. I lean upon the skills and training I learned in Envirothon daily. I also use my Envirothon experience as a proxy for when I engage with students in the field. I remember the energy of the competitions and the topics that widened the eyes of my teammates and peers from across the continent. I consider which members of my audience may just take their professional cue from what I say, demonstrate, or explain. I consider this a noble task and why I am passionate about the sustainability of the Envirothon competition and experience.

I can say with confidence, if it hadn’t been for the Envirothon competition, I wouldn’t be working for the The Nature Conservancy, the largest non-governmental environmental organization on Earth. I owe the Envirothon experience sincere lifelong appreciation and commitment.

Dr. Emily Moberg: Pennsylvania Envirothon

Dr. Emily Moberg is a Research Lead Specialist at the World Wildlife Fund on greenhouse gas impacts within agriculture. (click here to read more)
Envirothon was the best experience of my high school career and set the stage for my future work; I also met some of my closest friends through Envirothon. This competition provided an introduction to ecology, highlighted the importance of environmental health for society, and challenged me to assimilate new knowledge quickly. I learned how to apply that information and present it to others. I pursued applied environmental science in my undergraduate studies of Environmental Engineering at MIT, and in my doctoral studies in Biological Oceanography at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (which is suspiciously similar to my Envirothon category--aquatic ecology!)

I now work as a Research Lead Specialist at the World Wildlife Fund on greenhouse gas impacts within agriculture. In this work, I often think about different types of ecosystems and how interventions will affect both the ecosystems and the people living and using the land. The science I learned from Envirothon is still useful to me everyday!

Erin Hines: North Carolina Envirothon

Erin Hines is the Environmental Educator for the Gaston County Soil and Water Conservation District and serves on the NC Envirothon committee. (click here to read more)
Erin Hines grew up in Envirothon, participating throughout middle school and high school in the North Carolina (NC) Envirothon competition (NC holds a middle school Envirothon in addition to the high school program). Her team’s commitment and drive led them to winning the state championship three times, earning them the chance to compete in three NCF-Envirothon international annual competitions. “The scholarship money we earned from the competitions supported us in our educational pursuits beyond high school. Five of us received full scholarships to NC State University, and all but one of us chose natural resource careers including environmental studies, biological and agricultural engineering, soil science, geology, and parks and recreation. All of us have said Envirothon was a major influence in our choices.”

Today, Erin is an Environmental Educator for the Gaston County Soil and Water Conservation District, serves on the NC Envirothon committee and has this to say about the Envirothon, “As a program, Envirothon has what it takes to be extremely effective in influencing adult environmentalism, including extended duration, adult mentors, and time in nature. So here I am, throwing my weight behind this exceptional educational experience, and thanking all who make it possible.”

Ryan Ling: Pennsylvania Envirothon

Ryan Ling is a District Forester with the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). (click here to read more)
When people ask me why I chose a career in forestry, I always answer without hesitation the same two reasons, “Scouting and the Envirothon.” Like most rural Pennsylvania kids, I spent most of my time as a youth with my brother and friends fishing, playing sports, participating in scouting, climbing trees and doing all the things little boys do while exploring the great outdoors. As I entered high school I still spent much of my free time outdoors playing sports, hunting and fishing. So when some of my friends floated the idea of having an Envirothon team at West Branch Area High School, I was absolutely on board. I didn’t know at that time what an Envirothon was, but anything that was outdoors and a competition was something I could get behind. So we studied and prepared our team; The Environ-Mentals, for the Clearfield County Envirothon.

2012 Envirothon alumni meet up

2012 Envirothon alumni (members of the Alaska Envirothon and Newfoundland & Labrador Envirothon teams) reconnect . (click here to read more)
From Michaela Pye (Newfoundland & Labrador Envirothon team member): " I’m doing an exchange year at University of Alaska Fairbanks, where Hannah is doing her degree and Lachlan just so happened to be stationed in Fairbanks with the military!

We thought it was a pretty neat thing. We all met at Envirothon in Montana (2012) and joked about visiting each other one day, I guess the time has come! Envirothon has facilitated so many lifetime friendships- it's pretty special! "

Whitney Gould: Nova Scotia Envirothon

Whitney Gould, We'Koqma'q First Nations, Nova Scotia, Canada. (click here to read more)
Envirothon has helped me in many ways in high school life. First, it has helped me conquer my fear of being in front of a crowd and helped me develop my self esteem. Envirothon heled me understand other things in my classes, also gave me a better understanding of TEAMWORK.
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