Biologist, Conservationist, & Portlander. My passion lives in Africa.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Find your passion and pursue it.

2:03 PM Posted by Tara Easter No comments
The idea of starting an animal conservation club that eventually became the non-profit Roots and Shoots at NCSU was originally formed in Africa. In the summer of 2010, I took a study abroad trip to Namibia, and the group I was with instantly formed a bond that I think will last a lifetime. We had a passion for conservation, and wanted to share it with the world. What we had learned in Africa about the difficulties of wildlife management on the social, political, and economic scale we wanted others to understand.

But when we got back to school… life took back over. Most of us being upperclassmen, our work load became heavy, we had very different schedules, and we rarely saw each other. We mentioned getting the club started a few times, but none of us really knew how to go about creating it. 

Then, by some act of fate, Jane Goodall moved all of her research to Duke University and gave a a presentation there. My Namibia study abroad group did not hesitate in buying tickets to this event. I had been aware of Jane Goodall’s story for a long time, but her presentation and reasons for hope almost brought me to tears, filling me up with faith and inspiration. She is without a doubt one of the most incredible women alive, and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to see her in person. After researching in Gombe for 50 years, making remarkable strides in primate knowledge, she travelled all over the globe and continually witnessed the same problem. She said the youth had given up. They seemed to think the generations before them had compromised their futures and the environment beyond repair. She was determined to show these young people that they can make a difference, and that’s how Roots and Shoots was born. As she described this international conservation organization that she had created, now with over 6,000 chapters, I knew this was how my friends and I were going to lead NC State students into ways of making positive change for animal conservation.  Our mission was simple: raise awareness of global animal conservation issues, like “Hey, this is what’s happening in Africa right now with rhinos, and this is how it affects you right here in North Carolina and here are some organizations that are doing something about it”. 

Launching this club was a lot of work. The other officers and I met every week to plan for half a semester before our first meeting. Even after the biweekly meetings took off, we would continue every single off week. Every single Thursday evening was taken up by Roots and Shoots for the officers, and then some. We were constantly advertising. We chalked all over our brickyard, painted murals in our Free Expression Tunnel, spoke in classes, emailed fliers out, recruited faculty support, partnered with University Scholars, the Global Perspectives Certificate Program, and Women In Science and Engineering. We arranged free documentary showings at our campus cinema and created our website, Facebook page, and NCSU Student Organization Page. 

Yeah, it was a ton of work, but was it hard? No, I didn’t think so. The ideas and actions seemed to role effortlessly off our backs. Everyone had a role in the success of this group and it could not have been done without a single one of our officers. And it paid off! 

Meeting with Dr. Meg Lowman, world famous for pioneering research in the canopies.

The response we received was incredible. Students at NCSU were excited for this new way to make a difference. When we first started and had not yet made connections with potential speakers, we gave lectures ourselves, and the attendees listened attentively to our thoroughly researched topics of the ivory trade and burning and shark finning. Once we had a base, we had speakers coming from all over the globe, driving down from D.C., Skyping in from Africa and Asia, and from local universities and organizations. 

I found a new confidence within myself as a leader of this non-profit organization. We all felt like we were truly making a difference on our campus and beyond. We volunteered for local organizations, and fundraised for a voted upon animal conservation groups abroad. We partnered with Dr. Meg Lowman, world renowned canopy researcher and director of the Nature Research Center and even got to meet the President of the Jane Goodall Institute! So many things came from creating this group that I could have never imagined. I want to thank my fellow officers, and most importantly, everyone who helped make this so successful. I hope I left a legacy at NC State. I would love to come back in twenty years and give my own talk as a professional in wildlife conservation to the new Roots and Shoots at NCSU generation.