Nelson Institute graduate student to assist with international BioBlitz Event

May 1, 2019

From May 11 through June 23, 2019 citizen-scientists and golfers from around the world will participate in the Audubon International’s annual BioBlitz, a species counting competition open to the public. Aimed at showcasing the environmental value of golf course habitats, BioBlitz encourages individuals to visit their local, participating golf course, and make note of the plant and animal species located on each property. Prizes are given to the course who has the most participants, the most species, and an award is presented for the best photograph. An international event, BioBlitz will have a special UW-Madison connection this year. In addition to facilitating the local BioBlitz at Blackhawk Country Club, Nelson Institute graduate student, Carly Rodgers, will also spend her summer in New York analyzing the competition data as a part of her Nelson Institute Environmental Conservation Professional Master’s program internship with Audubon International.

A 15-month program designed to train conservation leaders in practical interdisciplinary skills, the Nelson Institute Environmental Conservation Professional Master’s program features in-person and online courses as well as a three-month professional leadership experience. The program introduces professionals to a wide range of curricula, including conservation planning, land use policy, applied GIS, and strategic communications. Students also engage in a three-month internship, allowing them to receive hands-on experience addressing some of the most urgent challenges in conservation and environmental protection. For Rodgers, this professional program was the ideal way to facilitate her professional transition from nursing to environmental conservation.

“I have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and have worked as a registered nurse for the last 4 years. I enjoy taking care of people, but decided to embrace my interests in caring for all forms of life,” Rodgers said. “Although I plan to continue as a nurse, I will now have the knowledge needed to help nurture the environment through other career opportunities. I am specifically interested in wildlife habitats, communications, and education and outreach within the field of conservation.”

In particular, Rodgers has been exploring ways to merge her passion for nature with her admiration for golf, something BioBlitz will help Rodgers achieve.

“I come from a family of golfers and I’ve recently gotten into golfing myself, so I’m trying to link that recreational aspect of my life to my environmental studies,” Rodgers said. “When I began researching golf course landscapes and their environmental value, I found that there has been a movement within the industry of golf to become more sustainable. This is controversial, of course, due to the water resources and chemicals used for turf maintenance. My main focus is the wildlife habitats that exist throughout a golf course and how we can better manage courses to ensure the safety and livelihood of these species."

Rodgers shared her concerns and interests with Environmental Conservation Program Coordinator, Meghan Kautzer, who reached out to a former student connected to the golf industry. From there, Kautzer helped Rodgers to connect with Audubon International, who has golf course sanctuary and certification programs that help course managers to improve the environmental health of the grounds. In connecting with Audubon International, Rodgers learned more about these program and became connected with BioBlitz, ultimately securing an internship that will allow her to help analyze data from BioBlitz and explore the sanctuary programs.  

“I’m excited to kick of the BioBlitz right here in Madison, along Lake Mendota, where I can explore and educate the community with hopes of identifying all kinds of plant and animal species,” Rodgers said.  “As a nurse, I also value the game of golf and its position in nature for its ability to benefit mental and physical health as it provides an opportunity for outdoor exposure, exercise, and social interaction.”

For Rodgers, who will graduate from the Environmental Conservation Master’s program in August, BioBlitz is just the beginning of her journey to bridge health, recreation, and the environment.

“I would love to find an environmental position within the golf course industry, but this may prove tough as this is a very specific area of focus. I am also looking into combining my degrees and potentially working with hospitals and other medical facilities that are striving to become more sustainable,” Rodgers said. “I’ve learned so much from this program-not only the science aspect of conservation, but also the importance of communication amongst stakeholders as well as the influence of politics and the economy. The best part of this program has definitely been meeting individuals with such unique and inspiring experiences and interests within the environmental world. I’m really proud to be a part of a program that supports such a broad spectrum of future conservationists and am eager to use my new skill set out in the field.”

Event Details:

The Blackhawk Country Club Golf Course will host a BioBlitz event on Saturday, June 1, 2019. The free event is open to Shorewood Hills Residents, as well as country club members, and students from the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There will be two sessions on the day of the event: Sunrise- 7:30 a.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m.

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