Spotlight Story

11 October 2023

Sharon Dorsey: Paving the Way for a Career in Inclusive Conservation

Category: Spotlight Story

Sharon Dorsey is a graduate student at Virginia Tech studying fish and wildlife conservation with a focus on an endangered coastal bird known as the piping plover. Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, her passion for conservation started early on with her interest in outdoor sports and conservation issues around the metropolitan region of Baltimore and Washington DC.

Sharon's passion for wildlife and the environment was sparked during her college years at George Mason University, where she pursued a degree in environmental science. She recalls her fascination with the flora and fauna encountered on walks and outings, sparking a desire to protect both natural habitats and the species that inhabit them.

Her path to conservation was also influenced by her training in high school. Sharon attended a school that emphasized environmental concepts, sustainability, and stewardship, cultivating her love of nature from a young age. Representation is an important issue in conservation, and Sharon recognized the lack of visibility of traditionally excluded individuals, especially in publications and the media. Meeting her cousin, who was actively involved in conservation work, gave Sharon a glimpse of what was possible and inspired her even more to pursue higher education in this field.

After learning about Hispanic Access Foundation and the MANO Project, Sharon was accepted into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Directorate Fellows Program (DFP) with the Asheville Ecological Services Field Office. She spent 12 weeks involved in consolidating and synthesizing information on pollinator conservation projects in the Southeast region, providing valuable information for future conservation efforts in the region.

“They wanted to improve and do better efforts in promoting pollinator conservation, but they weren't quite sure where to start, and sometimes it helps to know what is currently being done. There was, at that point, no existing inventory of current projects. I made a 200-entry inventory database and provided a key resource to the leadership of the region.”

Sharon envisions herself working in conservation education, bridging the gap between data collection and public understanding.

“I’m happy to collect data, but also translate that data in a way that the public can understand it and hopefully contribute with the community science input.”

She believes in empowering communities to actively participate in conservation through community and citizen science initiatives. For Sharon, leadership in conservation means breaking with conventions and embracing diversity. She strives to be a pioneer, championing underrepresented voices in conservation and empowering people to connect with nature in their own way. In her leadership vision, everyone has a seat at the table and conservation efforts take into account diverse cultural perspectives and practices.

Her dedication and commitment to making conservation accessible to everyone is a testament to the positive change one person can bring to the world of conservation within urban settings. As she continues her research and aspirations, Sharon’s impact on conservation education will surely grow, leaving insightful work for the future.

“I believe as a leader we must encourage people to be their authentic selves when it comes to engaging in the outdoors, working in the outdoors, nurturing the outdoors, harvesting the outdoors, but letting people show up in their own way.”

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