The Women Behind Conservation
On the ground and in the office, these are some of the inspiring women driving our science-based conservation in Massachusetts.
Globally, less than 30 percent of researchers are women. Women also still have less than two-thirds of the economic opportunity that men have. It’s time to change these kinds of statistics—one woman at a time. From the Berkshires to the Atlantic coast, the women of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts are on-the-ground and in the office, surveying species and landscapes, analyzing data, advocating for smart policy, leveraging partnerships and building connections to support people and nature into the future. Meet some of the women pioneering this critical work across the Commonwealth.
Alison Bowden: Director of Conservation Science and Strategy
I grew up on the Ten Mile River in East Providence, Rhode Island, a few miles from the birthplace of the industrial revolution in the United States. In the 1980s, the Ten Mile was named one of the most polluted rivers in America by the EPA, impacted by two centuries of damming, diversion and dumping of industrial wastes. The links between environmental health and human health and safety have been clear to me since I was very young. I got degrees in environmental science and water resource management to learn how to use science to make things better for people and nature.
I’ve worked at TNC for 19 years. My favorite part of my job is seeing the results of big projects, like the Mill River restoration. In a 1920’s report, a state biologist declared restoration of the Mill River herring run “an impossibility.” I started working on that project in 2005; removal of 3 dams and construction of a fishway was completed in 2018. Today, the river herring run is growing, water quality is improving and the risk of flooding are reduced.
Diversity within an organization or team, including gender diversity, is associated with increased productivity and creativity. We need everyone’s creativity and talents—working across science, engineering, social science and policy—to solve the greatest challenges for people and nature.
Meg Connerton: Director of Operations and Culture
Ever an idealist, I was lucky enough to spend much of my childhood outdoors and grew up with a profound send of place. After graduating with a degree in Environmental Affairs from University of New Hampshire, I thankfully made my way to TNC.
My colleagues are the best part of my job. TNC’s staff are by far, our greatest asset. I’m consistently awed by their wisdom, dedication and drive. I’m inspired to help create a supportive community, both where staff feel safe to show up authentically but also have the tools and processes in place that allow them to get their best work done easily.
I’m teaching my young daughter about the natural world and the importance of protecting it. With that comes the message that we all have a part in this work. Girls need strong role models. I hope that introducing her to smart, driven women making a real difference will empower her to do the same.
Jessica Dietrich: Geographic Information System (GIS) Manager
Since I was very young I’ve always loved being outside and exploring, and I knew I wanted to work in the environmental field. I like looking at the big picture and understanding how the elements of a landscape are connected and influence each other. I studied landscape ecology and a big part of that was learning GIS as a tool to answer questions about where to focus conservation in order to have the most impact.
My favorite part of my job is the variety. I love studying and analyzing data, and at the same time, I love sitting down with my colleagues and partners to strategize how best to apply these data, whether that be prioritizing where to protect a piece of land or restore a wetland, identifying critical wildlife corridors, creating maps that communicate our work to a wider audience, or measuring the impacts of an urban tree planting project. And of course, I love getting out into the field to ground truth and see the places I’ve studied and mapped from my desk.
Who we see as role models really matters. Women bring different perspectives that are relevant to understanding our world and envisioning solutions to the challenges we face. The more visible we are, the more the next generation will see they have a place as well, and be inspired to put their talents and energy to work for nature.
If we're going to save the planet and ourselves, we need each and every one of us, especially women and other identities who have historically been left out of science, policy and decision-making.
Loren Dowd, Marketing and Communications Content Manager
I grew up in the mountains and on the ocean in Hawai‘i, and learned from a young age to mālama ka ‘aina (care for and protect the land). This way of being was embedded into outdoor activities with my family, learning about and giving back to the land through Girl Scouts, and in school. I’ve also always wanted to be a writer. After college, I decided I wanted to use my love of writing to help encourage others to care for our planet, especially as climate change became an increasingly apparent threat to our well-being.
One of the best things about being a content writer is that I get to interact with everyone on staff, spend my time learning about the work they're doing, and then share it with our audiences to inspire hearts and change minds. It's rewarding to see firsthand the impact we're having and help educate others.
Working in science and enviornmental communications has taught me that if we're going to save the planet and ourselves, we need each and every one of us, especially women and other identities who have been left out of science, policy and decision-making. We all have unique skills to contribute to the enormous task of slowing climate change, adapting to impacts, and protecting nature and humans—together, we will find a way.
Megan Gordon: Conservation Coordinator
I started taking classes on spatial ecology in college and fell in love with it. I knew I wanted to pursue a career where I could do meaningful conservation work and promote science. I joined TNC in 2019 through a fellowship program in Vermont which helps young professionals from historically underrepresented backgrounds get into conservation.
After two and a half years of chasing streams there, I joined the Massachusetts chapter as the conservation coordinator. Now I help protect land, manage our conservation inventories, and coordinate information across multiple program areas. In addition, I have the pleasure of working with our incredible partners around the state to leverage science and mapping to achieve our conservation goals.
It is so crucial for women to know that conservation and science is accessible to them. To be a “woman in STEM,” you don’t have to master engineering or major in physics. I am a huge map nerd, and proud of it! Women can love science in so many ways.
The same goes for the outdoors—there isn’t just one way to be an “outdoorsy” person. I am not a trail runner, or climber, but I can recreate in a way that is just as important. Wandering through the woods and identifying plants or following a map to find gorgeous headwater streams is just as good for the soul.
Karen Lombard: Director of Stewardship
I majored in biology and environmental studies and when I learned about TNC’s work, I said to myself "I would like to work for that organization." I had an internship with the National Park Service in Hawai'i, which led to volunteering and then an internship at TNC, and aside from some time off, I’ve been here for nearly twenty five years.
I love how the job has a lot of variety—every day is different and the job is always changing. I manage properties on the ground, oversee restoration projects, work with partner organizations and collaborate with other TNC colleagues beyond the state. It turns out that my strengths are in project management—I make things happen—and TNC provides lots of opportunities for that.
Science and nature are for us all, so it makes no sense that this field should be dominated by just 50% of the population. At least in Massachusetts, preserve management and restoration work has included women from the start and there are a lot of women in this field, which is great to be a part of.
Emily Myron: Policy Manager
If you asked me ten years ago where I would be right now, I would have never guessed. I studied ecology in college and hoped to pursue a career in wildlife conservation. Then, in my first job after graduate school at a very small NGO, I was encouraged to take on some of our policy work. I was nervous to step out of my comfort zone, but, to my surprise, it completely lit me up. I was able to use my scientific knowledge, communication skills and passion for relationship building to advance causes that I deeply cared about.
Today, as part of the government relations team for TNC in Massachusetts, I get to work with my colleagues, countless partners and decision makers to ensure that we are investing in nature and tackling climate change both in Massachusetts and nationally. I like to describe my work as trying to solve a puzzle that is always moving. I love that this work challenges me to be patient and requires me to be persistent.
To my younger self and others, I would say to be open to new opportunities and challenges; you never know when you will find your spark. Conservation needs voices of all kinds—scientists, as well as advocates, communications experts, economists, health professionals, philanthropists, community leaders, and the list goes on. If you are passionate about the environment, there is a place for you at the table! I am proud to work alongside many incredible women every day who are leading change and reshaping the way we think about the connection between nature, our communities and our well-being.
It is so important to amplify women's voices and make sure that we include women front and center in leading the change that we need to effectively deal with the climate crisis.
Leslie Pond: External Affairs Coordinator
I’m a biochemist/immunologist/cell biologist by training and have had a career in scientific publishing and managing a postdoctoral training program. After retiring, I wanted to pivot to work on urgent environmental issues such as climate change, so have been a research intern, volunteer, and now part-time member of the policy and partnershps team at TNC for the last three years. I’ve created an info sheet that focuses on the nexus of climate change, health and equity, as well as a report on potential pathways to create a green infrastructure workforce development program, as part of a partnership with a Boston-area neighborhood development corporation. I’m always excited to engage with community members in climate conversations and actions.
Women have essential roles in society, and in many regions, women and girls are often differently and disproportionately impacted by environmental and climate disasters than men. It is estimated that globally, 80% of people displaced by climate change are women, and women are more likely than men to experience poverty. Women across the world are already bringing their incredible and diverse skills and perspectives to bear on environmental issues, such as climate change adaptation and mitigation. Therefore, it is so important to amplify their voices and make sure that we include women front and center at all levels and across sectors in leading the change that we need to effectively deal with the climate crisis.
Jessica Rice Healey: Interim Director of Development
Growing up in Massachusetts, the New England landscape was a big part of my family’s recreation. I always knew I wanted to pursue a career working in the environmental field and have been fortunate to work for organizations leading important conservation efforts for my entire career.
Even though my degree is in environmental policy, I’ve always been on the administrative side of the work, such as executing global forestry conferences, working with dedicated event volunteers and partnering with generous donors to help fulfill their goals. This allows me to support work that is personally meaningful to me while continuing to learn from the amazing conservation experts that I work with every day.
My work at TNC has been so rewarding as I continue to enable critical conservation action in important places around the globe, as well as my home here in Massachusetts. Every day is different as a development professional—one day may include visiting with a donor at their home or going for a walk to see one of our sites and another day may include lots of planning in front of a computer or helping a colleague think about the best way to steward a new donor. Throughout my career I’ve met some incredible people and seen some beautiful places, from the forests of Brazil to those of the Berkshires.
Angela Sirois-Pitel: Stewardship Manager
I fell in love with field work when I started doing wood turtle tracking in New Hampshire right after college. I was then hired for a Student Conservation Association internship with TNC in the Berkshire Office, to do wetland restoration and help with bog turtle research. 15 years later, I’ve gone from that internship to running the landscape office, having gotten my masters studying bog turtles and hosted and mentored over 35 seasonal staff and interns during that time. It’s been incredible! Protecting and preserving the bog turtles and their habitat in Western Massachusetts really holds a special place in my heart—I love the blend of science, management and human components that my work offers.
I think women weren’t always welcome in these positions and were under-represented until my generation. I’m lucky to have had a lot of great women role models at TNC who have supported my career. I really value my opportunity to supervise and mentor the next generation of conservation leaders, many of whom have been women. It’s really important that we continue to provide opportunities for women and girls to be connected with nature and understand its benefits.