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Faces of Conservation

Asia Dowtin

How do you engage urban dwellers in conservation when nature seems so far away? One way is to bring conservation to them. It’s an idea Asia Dowtin explored for the Conservancy’s Delaware chapter during her 2012 summer internship.

Born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island, Dowtin, a University of Delaware doctoral student in Geography, jumped at the chance to put sustainable regional planning and regional watershed management courses to practice by examining how various conservation initiatives might benefit those living in greater Wilmington while advancing The Nature Conservancy’s mission in Delaware.

“Cities around the nation are incorporating conservation strategies into city-wide planning for a variety of reasons, including cleaner water and air, economic efficiencies, storm water management, and physical and emotional health benefits,” says Dowtin. “Wilmington can learn a lot from those cities, including nearby in Philadelphia, Camden, Baltimore and New York City.”

Some of the information Dowtin’s research covered the following topics:  

  • Providing demographic data for the greater Wilmington area;
  • Identifying urban conservation initiatives undertaken in major cities in the United States, as well as by TNC chapters worldwide;
  • Describing current urban conservation projects underway in the greater Wilmington area; and,  
  • Researching potential funding sources for conservation projects that would benefit the greater Wilmington area.

“Across the country, urban centers are the source of the greatest population growth. So as we coordinate with colleagues in neighboring chapters to conserve critical habitats in places like the Delaware River and Bay, it makes sense to look at what’s going on in cities like Wilmington,” says Richie Jones, the Conservancy’s Delaware state director. “It’s a relatively new area for the Conservancy, and while we aren’t going to let it divert us from our primary focus of preserving critical habitats, it’s something that we believe will become more and more important.”

As she heads back to the classroom in the Fall, Dowtin expresses pride in having played a role in the process, adding that it “has been a great opportunity to explore career opportunities that reach beyond academia, including working for organizations like the Conservancy in areas such as hydrology and environmental science.”

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