Shelly received a BS in Biology from Murray State University in 1995 and then a MS in Biology from University of Louisville in 2004. During this time, she spent two summers working for the National Park Service in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That’s when she decided to focus her studies and career path on freshwater ecology. She began working as the Conservancy’s Grand Rivers Corridor Project Manager in 2003 upon finishing graduate school. In 2010, Shelly’s title changed, and responsibilities grew, after becoming the Conservancy’s Western Kentucky Project Director.
I’ve practiced the three R’s of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle since I was in my early teens. It’s such a simple thing that people can do to cumulatively make a huge difference. Reducing and reusing also keeps waste out of landfills and saves on the raw materials needed on the front end. I also always try to use “green” cleaning products around the house, another simple way to reduce the amount of chemicals we put into our environment. And, although I’m new to it, I recently got into home gardening and composting and I’m pretty excited about that.
Nature.org: Have you always had an interest in conservation?
Shelly Morris: Absolutely. As a kid my happiest times were spent in the woods, in a creek, flipping logs – anything where I could be outside and get my hands dirty. I’ve never grown out of it. As I grew up, I realized that there were some very serious challenges facing our environment, and it concerned me. During college, I felt the pull to pursue a career where I could do something meaningful to me. I chose conservation and love the work that I do. It is very fulfilling.
Nature.org: How did your career path lead to working with The Nature Conservancy?
Shelly Morris: I felt fortunate to begin working for the Conservancy just out of graduate school at the end of 2003. I had been a member for many years, but wasn’t aware of job opportunities in Kentucky until one was brought to my attention by a contact with the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. Things fell into place from there. Upon taking the job with the Conservancy, I expressed that I had found my “dream job.” I still feel that way today and hope to have a long future with the organization.
Nature.org: What projects have your focus right now?
Shelly Morris: My main focus right now is increasing resources for wetland and stream restoration and protection in western Kentucky, specifically in a focus area associated with the Lower Mississippi River Basin. This involves a combination of partner collaboration, public education and work in the field. There is a tremendous opportunity for wetland restoration in this area and we are optimistic that we will soon have the resources needed to move ahead with a large scale wetland conservation project here.
Nature.org: What do you hope to tackle over the next couple of years?
Shelly Morris: More of the same. Five years from now I hope to see the restoration and protection of at least 5,000 “new” acres of wetlands in our western Kentucky focus area, which will improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and lead to better conditions for not only the natural resources that we care about, but also the people living in these communities.