As scientists, politicians and media outlets advocate for conservation initiatives, a new generation of novice environmentalists is taking center stage. The national nonprofit Student Conservation Association (SCA) provides young adults with the tools and training necessary to make a career in the natural sciences. As part of its mission, the SCA strives to amplify underrepresented voices in the environmental sciences. Their Chicago branch added a special twist: each season, they hire an all-female crew of young conservationists and give them hands-on training in ecological restoration.
Each winter, Daiva Gylys, SCA Chicago program manager, begins the hiring process for a new season. “Our program is a bit different than others because we accept young women of all experience levels,” she explains. Some participants are college students at local universities actively studying the conservation sciences. Others are young adults simply interested in doing their part to help the environment and their community. Members of the women’s crew typically range in age from 18 to 25, but the SCA as a whole recruits teenagers, as well. “What matters most is that our crews are made up of individuals with a passion for being outdoors,” says Gylys.
SCA Chicago’s women’s program coordinator Chris-Michael Tena expounds upon the benefits associated with having an all-female restoration group. “Anecdotally, the all-women’s crew feels more empowered to make and learn from mistakes and openly support each other… It’s great seeing women learning from each other, especially in a male-dominated industry,” he says.