Lauren Reker

Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains and attending Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC inspired within me a fervent passion to pursue a career dedicated to the conservation of western NC’s highly diverse natural heritage and, with an unwavering commitment to serving our community through volunteerism, the AmeriCorps Project Conserve program was in itself a deeply rewarding experience.

Engaging with The Nature Conservancy as a Project Conserve Stewardship Assistant in 2008-09, after completing my M.S.E.S. in Applied Ecology in the spring of 2008, was an invaluable opportunity to apply and broaden my professional skill set and gain practical experience exercising scientific theory while contributing to the stewardship of some of the most species-rich ecosystems and rare natural communities in WNC.  

As a result of the network of connections with the WNC conservation community cultivated during my Project Conserve service term, I was fortunate to be hired in the fall of 2009 by the Western North Carolina Alliance as the Project Supervisor for the Non-native Invasive Plant Control Program as well as by the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition to conduct field research on hemlock conservation areas within the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests.

Over the years following my Project Conserve service term, I have frequently volunteered with environmental conservation organizations and land trusts along with other WNC not-for-profits. I also began paid consulting work in the spring of 2014 with KD Ecological Services based in Mill Spring, NC as well as with private landowners.

Thanks to the pathways opened to me through my Project Conserve service term, I’ve been living my dreams since I first walked through The Nature Conservancy’s NC Mountains District office door in September of 2009. I whole-heartedly recommend the AmeriCorps Project Conserve program to any avid volunteer with conservation-related career aspirations.