The Women in Natural Resources organization, led by Elena Chagnovich and Lydia Vander Kooi, are helping to rewrite the cliche of a male dominant natural resource field by cultivating a space where every voice can be heard. Chagnovich describes the group as, “A place where all underrepresented people in natural resources can come together and create a community.” Both Chagnovich and Vander Kooi are Applied Ecology majors with a focus in wetlands. Chagnovich serves as president, while Vander Kooi is vice president.
Regular activities of the group include hiking, professional development sessions, enlightening guest speakers, valuable certifications, collaborative conferences, and mentorship programs. The organization ensures a holistic approach to the growth and development of everyone involved. Last year, the group attended the first ever Women’s Forest Congress in Minneapolis, where women from all over the country discussed all things forestry related as well as underrepresentation in their field. Vander Kooi discussed the inclusiveness of the organization, stating, “You don’t have to be a woman or in a natural resources field; anyone can join, even if you just enjoy the outdoors and want to be part of something bigger.”
Looking ahead, the Women in Natural Resources have exciting plans on the horizon. Their annual plant sale fundraiser is in the works, where members cultivate plants throughout the semester, then sell them at the end of the year to fund future trips, bring in more guest speakers, and support various activities. If you are interested, regular meetings take place on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. in the UJ Noblet Forestry Building, room 144, providing a consistent space for members to connect.
As Chagnovich and Vander Kooi continue to lead the charge, Women in Natural Resources stands as a testament to the strength of community, empowerment, and the vital role of women in shaping the future of natural resource conservation.