Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘women in science’

Women & Wildlife 2019 Inspiration Award Honoree Gretchen Fowles

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
Gretchen and Fly, the ENSP sniffer dog who helps track rare wildlife.

Join us to honor Gretchen and the four other 2019 Women & Wildlife Award Honorees on Wednesday, November 13th at 6 PM. Purchase events tickets and find more information.

Gretchen has been a biologist/GIS Specialist with NJ’s Endangered & Nongame Species Program (ENSP) for the past 15 years. She grew up in western Massachusetts, received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Carleton College in Minnesota, and spent her summers while in college as a wilderness ranger in Wyoming and assisting with black bear research in North Carolina. After living in Oregon and Vermont for a few years, working as a vet tech and volunteering for conservation organizations among other things, she then went on to earn a Master’s degree in Wildlife Ecology from Idaho State University studying bighorn sheep.

Within ENSP, her roles have included serving as administrator of Biotics, the state’s rare species database, developing GIS species distribution modeling, leading Allegheny woodrat and bobcat research, spearheading the CHANJ project, and serving as detection dog handler previously to Bear, and now to the program’s new canine sniffer, Fly.

We asked Gretchen a few questions about what inspires her to dedicate her career to New Jersey’s conservation:

Q: What has been a highlight of your career?

A: Developing the Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) project, which was released this past spring. It has been incredibly rewarding to work on a project from the conception of the idea several years ago all the way to its completion (at least the first version of it), and now working on the challenge of implementing solutions on the ground. It feels good to believe in the project today as much, if not more, than I did on day one. I have the tremendous privilege of getting to work with smart, dedicated, and talented co-leads, Brian Zarate and MacKenzie Hall, as well as many government, NGO, and academic partners and citizen scientists across the state all of whom are passionate about this issue of reconnecting our landscape.

 Q: What is your favorite thing about your job?

A: The support and freedom within my program to try different approaches to create solutions; the smart and passionate people I work with every day and continually meet, and of course all (well most . . .) of what comes with being a wildlife biologist even if it often means dealing with poop and dead things!  I think my 15 year old self would approve.

Q: Do you have a New Jersey wildlife species that you like best? 

No, they’re all so cool in their own way.  I do wish I could rename woodrats.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to change the world for wildlife?

I’m trying to figure this out myself!  What I do know is that there’s a whole lot to be said for persistence and hard work, continuous learning, and seeking out the creative thinkers and doers with whom to partner and share ideas.  Also, focusing efforts on creating and maintaining a well-connected landscape has been increasingly identified as a key strategy for protecting biodiversity and enabling wildlife to adapt to climate change.

Q: What do you find most challenging about your profession?

Remaining optimistic when there are so many negative forces to contend with, but it’s absolutely essential to remain optimistic. 

Q: What are your favorite things to do when you aren’t working?

Adventuring with my family, gardening, tossing a frisbee.

Women & Wildlife 2019 Education Award Honoree Giselle Chazotte Smisko

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

A life-long interest in nature led Giselle Chazotte Smisko to pursue a B.S. in biology at Bucknell University with a focus on ecology and botany.  Upon graduating in 1979 she started working as a part-time naturalist for the Morris County Park Commission and realized she needed to learn more about fauna the public would want to see on the walks.  That brought her to Len and Diane Soucy who were rehabilitating wild birds. 


Women & Wildlife 2019 Legacy Award Honoree Wilma Frey

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019
Wilma Frey with her well-worn copy of the Highlands Regional Master Plan, completed in 2006. Photo by: Sandy Perry.

Wilma Frey is the Senior Policy Manager at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. She has more than five decades of environmental and planning advocacy experience and masters’ degrees from Harvard Graduate School of Design and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, fifteen years apart. Wilma has fought to stop oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, battled the PennEast Pipeline here in New Jersey, enjoys dancing and has learned the secret to giving frogs and toads head scratches.



Friday, June 28th, 2019
Several past winners of CWF’s Women & Wildlife Awards celebrate at the 2018 ceremony

Women in science have come a long way since a National Geographic editor once called Jane Goodall “The blond girl studying apes.” That ‘girl’, of course, went on to become a world renowned researcher famous not only for her meticulous field studies of chimpanzees, but also as a tireless advocate for the natural world.

While much progress has been made, girls considering a career in science still struggle to find role models. For 14 years Conserve Wildlife Foundation has been celebrating women who protect New Jersey’s imperiled wildlife and inspire the next generation of women leaders.



Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Kris Schantz, 2017 Inspiration Award Honoree

As a Principal Zoologist for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, 2017 Women & Wildlife Inspiration Award Honoree Kris Schantz works with one of New Jersey’s most underappreciated and persecuted species: the timber rattlesnake. She earned her Masters of Science degree from Rutgers University based on a study of the rattlesnake and its habitat in northern New Jersey, and her passion in both learning and developing greater understanding of this species has helped improve its protection.

Ms. Schantz partners with academic and consultant biologists, as well as a number of reptile enthusiasts to accomplish the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s conservation mission. Her responsibilities have expanded to include other vulnerable snake species, such as the corn snake, northern pine snake, and scarlet snake. (more…)