Discover the Journey of Kelsey Wooddell: Changing the World One Tree at a Time

Discover the Journey of Kelsey Wooddell: Changing the World One Tree at a Time

Kelsey Wooddell, a current student in the MPA Environmental Science and Policy Program, is on a mission to make a difference in the world. In an exclusive interview, Kelsey shares her story of passion, dedication, and her love for planting trees through her experiences with the Peace Corps in Peru. Join us as we delve into Kelsey’s journey, exploring her motivations, challenges, and the lessons she has learned along the way.

A Natural Progression: Joining the MPA ESP Program

Kelsey’s decision to join the MPA ESP program at Columbia University was a logical step in her journey. With a background in ecology, evolutionary biology, environmental engineering, and policy studies, Kelsey’s academic and professional experiences had already paved the way towards environmental conservation and sustainability.

During her time as an undergraduate at Rice University, Kelsey volunteered for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, contributing to a groundbreaking experiment examining the impact of increased carbon levels on wetlands. This experience, coupled with her work at a European think-tank researching environmental policies, highlighted the need for effective integration of environmental science within policymaking.

Planting the Seeds of Change: Kelsey’s Peace Corps Experience

Seeking to understand the impact of environmental policies on local communities, Kelsey embarked on a life-changing journey with the Peace Corps in Peru. Her focus revolved around environmental education and reforestation, with a particular emphasis on engaging the local community.

One of Kelsey’s most significant projects involved establishing a tree nursery, which eventually became self-sustaining. Over the course of two years, Kelsey and the community planted over 12,000 trees, fostering a sense of ownership and ensuring the longevity of the program. However, Kelsey also learned a valuable lesson during this time – the importance of understanding and respecting community preferences when implementing environmental solutions.

While Kelsey’s initial plan was to plant native trees, the local community expressed a preference for eucalyptus and pine trees. Adapting to these preferences, Kelsey found a compromise that still brought ecological benefits while addressing erosion and landslides. This experience taught her the significance of community buy-in and the need to consider local perspectives when implementing environmental initiatives.

Empowering Communities: The Key to Conservation

For Kelsey, it became clear that conservation efforts must extend beyond environmental science and policy. She firmly believes in the power of education, stakeholder engagement, and capacity building at the community level to foster sustainable livelihoods while protecting the environment. As many economically disadvantaged communities are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, finding a balance between conservation and development becomes crucial.

Kelsey envisions herself crafting policies that promote environmental sustainability while allowing for economic growth on an international scale. She emphasizes the importance of community-level planning, education, and capacity building to ensure the long-term success of initiatives. To achieve this, Kelsey advocates for collaborations that empower local residents and build their capabilities, ensuring that the impact remains even after external organizations complete their projects.

The MPA ESP Program: Shaping Future Leaders

Kelsey finds the MPA ESP program at Columbia University instrumental in bridging the gap between science and policy. Recognizing the lack of scientific knowledge underpinning many policies, she values the program’s focus on equipping future policymakers with a strong understanding of environmental science.

The collaborative nature of the program has also been a highlight for Kelsey. With her science background, she has been able to lend support to her colleagues during the “summer of science,” while they, in turn, have shared their expertise in policy and management issues. This dynamic exchange of knowledge and ideas has created a tight-knit community that serves as a valuable network and support system.

Looking Towards the Future

While Kelsey did not have a specific goal in mind when entering the program, her time at Columbia has allowed her interests to solidify. Post-graduation, Kelsey envisions herself working on capacity building, education, and community planning for conservation and environmental sustainability. Her aim is to join organizations such as the United Nations, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, or the United Nations Development Program.

Professionally, Kelsey’s time in New York City has only strengthened her love for the vibrant metropolis. She looks forward to finding a job in the city, allowing her to continue her pursuit of environmental change and experience all that New York has to offer.

From her experiences in Peru to her academic journey at Columbia, Kelsey Wooddell is a true inspiration. Her dedication to planting trees and creating sustainable communities serves as a reminder of the power each of us holds to make a positive impact on the environment. Join Kelsey and embark on your own journey towards a greener future!

Learn more about tree planting and environmental conservation at Tips Tree Planting.