March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate and reflect on the contributions women have made to history, culture and society. Despite facing challenges such as salary inequality, exclusion, harassment or bias, women like Rachel Carson and Celia Hunter have made a lasting impact on conservation. 

Throughout our 75 years, Defenders of Wildlife has been led by a number of intrepid and passionate women including Mary Hazell Harris, Katherine Bryan and today with Jamie Rappaport Clark.

Jamie on the Hill
Charles Kogod
Jamie Rappaport Clark testifies in front of the House of Representatives.

Inclusive, diverse leadership is increasingly recognized as essential to conservation success. Conservation scientists and practitioners have argued that the profession will more effectively protect biodiversity if it includes different genders, races, ethnicities and cultures, and represents a range of values and viewpoints. That’s why it’s important to continue to elevate women doing amazing conservation work.

So, what inspired some of the women at Defenders to pursue a career in conservation? Read below to find out.

Kathleen Callaghy presenting.
Kathleen Callaghy presenting on the importance of salmon habitat restoration funding to environmental activists in Washington State.

“I have always loved wolves – their beauty, their grace, their wisdom. I read Wolf Woman by Sherryl Jordan and similar books in my teens, and that was it. For a long time, I avoided doing work with animals because I didn’t think I could bear to witness their suffering. I still can’t. But when I was ready for a career shift, I realized I wanted – needed – to be on the front lines doing what I could to ameliorate climate change and protect the species and spaces that have comforted and inspired me since I was small. It’s my service, and my thanks.”

-Kathleen Callaghy, Northwest Representative

Alejandra at CITES CoP19 in Panama, 2022
Alejandra Goyenechea representing Defenders of Wildlife at CITES CoP19 in Panama, 2022.

“My inspiration to start a career in conservation was going on road trips. The most special one for me was when I was in law school and drove to the Sierra Gorda in Mexico. The surroundings were just spectacular, and the director of the protected area gave us a talk about how they engage in conservation. That really appealed to me. Then, I decided to write my graduation thesis about the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and purse a master's degree in International Environmental Law here in Washington, DC. After that I knew I wanted to work at the Environmental Prosecutor's Agency in Mexico and then come to the U.S. to expand my work, and the rest is history.”

-Alejandra Goyenechea, Senior International Counsel

Zoe Hanley Speaking - Sauk Suiattle Bear Awareness Training - Washington
Zoe Hanley speaking at Sauk Suiattle Bear Awareness Training in 2020.

“My family had a small cabin in the woods of New Hampshire while I was growing up, where we spent summers picking blueberries and watching the beavers build a lodge on the pond. These experiences married my love of wildlife with a passion for working outdoors and sharing that love with others. In my current role as senior Northwest “Coexistence” representative, I get to live that passion by fostering human acceptance of large predators and recently collaborated with state wildlife agencies to innovate an existing nonlethal tool to reduce predator-livestock conflicts: the radio-activated guard (RAG) box 2.0.”

-Zoe Hanley, Senior Northwest Representative

“During my childhood, my family visited the beach each year and I became fascinated by the sea creatures that lived in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. I loved to see animal sightings and learn about how [animals] survive in their habitats. This is why the dolphin was my favorite animal as a kid, and why I want to continue in conservation. I recently helped push forward an ad that was placed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution encouraging Gov. Brian Kemp to protect Okefenokee. I was so happy when the paperwork came together in the end, and we were able to deliver a fantastic message.”

-Natalie Palmer, Communications Coordinator

Azalia Selfie - Texas
Azalia Rodriguez in the field for Lights Out, Texas!

“I was working at the University of Colorado-Boulder and received an email about a bear sighting in downtown Boulder. The email expressed concerns about human-wildlife interactions and reminded the public of how to practice bear-safe actions when doing everyday activities i.e. properly securing trashcans. The city went even further to provide citizens with bear-safe dumpsters. That email inspired me, and I knew I wanted to work in wildlife conservation. I thought it was so amazing that people in power provided ways for the public to take action to better coexist. From that day on, I sought to be one of those people in power for the sake of conservation. A passion project of mine is the Lights Out, Texas! work I lead in my state. I am a big advocate for citizen science and use this as a way to engage with the community. What I love most about this project is you do not have to be a scientist to contribute to science.”

-Azalia Rodriguez, Texas Representative



Wildlife & Wild Places

Grizzly bear sow
Gray Wolf in Yellowstone

Follow Defenders of Wildlife

facebook twitter instagram youtube medium tiktok threads
Get Updates and Alerts