The DTE Energy Foundation, Huron River Watershed Council, ReLeaf Michigan and The Nature Conservancy together created a fellowship program that will provide future environmental leaders with comprehensive work experience.
The program is designed to provide recent college graduates and early career conservation professionals with the opportunity to work in an environment that combines a deep dive into real-world conservation projects with a broad introduction to major conservation issues.
These fellowships are just one example of the DTE Foundation’s commitment to building equitable and inclusive employment pipelines, and to giving opportunities to future leaders from underrepresented communities. Additionally, DTE Energy upheld its commitment to unlocking new doors for students remotely during the pandemic, providing internships and holistic support in a virtual working environment. We support education programs in STEM and career awareness activities that expose young people to a variety of in-demand career paths in Michigan, like our virtual field trip.
Learn more about the fellows and get their thoughts about careers in the high-growth environmental field below:
My name is Alex, and I’m excited to tell you about myself and the experiences that got me to where I am as a young professional. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico where I spent most of my time in the water and had a passion for animals. I attended Purdue University following the pre-veterinary track with a wildlife sciences major because I knew I wanted to work on more than just cats and dogs. It took one semester of Advanced General Chemistry for me to realize that this was not a fit. I spoke with my advisor and shortly changed to a fisheries and aquatic sciences major.
Now, I’m working as a Conservation Fellow at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for the next two years. This opportunity allows me to work with the science team at the Michigan Chapter of TNC which is a great opportunity to gain experience in different work from forestry to land and aquatic invasive species to fisheries management and restoration efforts in the Great Lakes.
For those interested in the field, I have two pieces of advice. The first is to be certain this is the field you want to get into. It’s an extremely important field, but it’s saturated and competitive. The second piece of advice is to get as much out as your summers as possible. The more experiences you can add to your resume, the better. As a Latina, I’ve struggled with understating my experiences on my resume; depending on your background or upbringing, being forward may be uncomfortable at times, but don’t undersell yourself and always be yourself!
My name is Ashley and I’m a project forester with the state-wide volunteer tree planting and education nonprofit ReLeaf Michigan. I grew up in the Upper Peninsula and hold multiple degrees from Michigan Technological University: a Bachelor of Science in mathematics with a concentration in actuarial science and a Master of Forestry Professional degree. I’ve experienced great adventures camping, hiking, hunting, and studying in the forest. It wasn’t long into my master’s program that I began to feel inspired to share my experiences in nature with individuals that don’t have the same access that I had. This led me to a collaborative opportunity on campus to implement a Tree Campus USA program at Michigan Tech. That experience then inspired me to apply for and accept this fellowship position with ReLeaf Michigan.
As a project forester with ReLeaf, I work closely with communities throughout the state to organize and implement volunteer tree planting events and workshops, plan and host online webinars, work closely with our executive director on researching, editing and reporting on grants, and so much more. In the time I’ve been with ReLeaf, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with several individuals throughout Michigan who care about our trees and communities, and about environmental stewardship. It’s been inspiring to witness the work being done and the effort that’s made every day by numerous individuals and organizations to grow healthy urban forests and strengthen Michigan communities.
If you’re seeking a career that makes a positive difference in the lives of your neighbors and the environment, and a career that will inspire you every day to have a servant’s heart, this field might be for you. If you’re interested in urban forestry or any other natural resource career, I’d encourage you to volunteer with a local environmental non-profit to gain hands-on experience. Pursue opportunities to build your professional network whether that’s through volunteering, finding an internship or summer position, starting a campus tree advisory committee like I did or joining professional industry groups. Your professional network is critical as you advance in your career. You never know who might teach you something life-changing!
I’m Eric, Watershed Planning Fellow with the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC). I have a vested interest in the quality of our environment, as I chose it as my career path back in my sophomore year of high school. My family moved from the city of Detroit to the rural city of Belleville, where we lived much closer to wildlife. I am a recent graduate from Eastern Michigan University, where I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science (interdisciplinary), concentrating in hydrology and minoring in sustainability. I served as president of GREEN club (the on-campus environmental activist group) my junior and senior years. I also worked as a field intern with HRWC.
Working from home during the pandemic has posed challenges but I’ve really hit my stride, getting a lot done and learning even more. I’m leading two projects that are perfect complements to work I’ve done before this position, as well as what I see myself doing after. One of the projects is helping the organization develop a Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) program. The other is coordinating a summer internship program called BANCS which is based on studying bank erosion in streams throughout the watershed. This is a program I helped collect data for when I served as an intern for HRWC back in 2017.
I have spent time in professional development and am currently being introduced to mentorship programs. I hope to use this outlet as a way for me to share my story and give hope to youth from communities like the Detroit community I’m from, and let our youth know there are more options for us to make a living outside of sports and entertainment. I want them to believe in themselves and the field of environmental science, and I want them to know there are opportunities for them to contribute to improving the quality of the environment we all share and enjoy the benefits from.