Meet alumna Arlene Arnold

Arlene Arnold
Arlene Arnold

Arlene Arnold believes in embracing life and the opportunities that follow. A love of music led her to a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music from the University of Hartford. Then an interest in ornithology and conservation guided her to CAHNR, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in natural resources, followed by a master’s degree in range and wildlife management at Texas A&M University. She’s been employed by the US Navy since 2008 as a natural resources specialist, a position that allows her to study wildlife and natural resources around the globe. Here’s what Arlene had to say about her time at CAHNR.

What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree?

My major at UConn was natural resources with a concentration in wildlife. I graduated in 2005 with a bachelor of science degree.

What CAHNR class was most useful to you?

I believe it was the natural resources plan and management course. As an exercise, we had to find private landowners who would allow us access to create a management plan for their property. The plan was not implemented, but it gave a valuable opportunity to see how we can apply the biological concepts we learned to land management. It gave us the opportunity to evaluate, analyze and problem solve, not just regurgitate information. It showed us how to weigh pros and cons and exposed how the world can be gray. There are not always easy answers. It was an excellent practical exercise for anyone interested in land management.

Tell us some of your fond memories of UConn.

Of course, some of the friends I made along the way. It was a good group of people who had fun together and were supportive of one another. I also really enjoyed the outdoor classes. The opportunity to be and work outside is one of the things I love about being in this field. Particularly, the dendrology and ornithology lab were fun. I remember bird watching in the cold, and snow on the ground, with binoculars balanced on top of my hot chocolate and I could not have been happier! I also enjoyed walking around the woods, learning how to identify the trees. Another fun one was the internship I did with the state. I would search for flocks of Canada geese around the area and report numbers. I think I found 2,000 geese one particularly cold day on the Connecticut River. Even when it is cold, I am very happy to be hanging out with birds.

The best memory was the research trip a group of us did to the Patagonia region of Chile with my advisor, Associate Professor Morty Ortega. We camped for three weeks in Torres Del Paine National Park. We studied with students from Chile and took various day trips for bird watching, wetland studies, geology, all kinds of things. And we also did small research projects while we were there, to get a taste for learning such techniques. I saw my first puma there while I was studying territorial behaviors of red-gartered coots! The group on this trip immediately felt like family. We all participated in each other’s activities. It was a great way to learn and interact with another culture, make friends and have fun!

Please describe your current job.

I just started a new job in Naples, Italy. I am the conservation and planning coordinator for the Europe, Africa, Central region. In this job, I support the US Navy installations in regard to natural and cultural resources. I help ensure we are protecting these assets on our host nations’ land by complying with the applicable laws. This involves reviewing planning documents, species surveys, habitat restoration, development of management plans, development of program requirements and budgeting, as well as conducting environmental audits. I will have the opportunity to travel to many countries in this position. It is important to be good stewards of the land and demonstrate to our host nations that we protect their natural and cultural resources. Most people are unaware of how much conservation the military does. It is not the obvious organization one would think of as doing active conservation. The US Navy is interested in conservation to maintain realistic training settings. I feel blessed to participate in conservation in this way.

Are you doing what you imagined you would be doing at this point in your life?

At this point in my life, I thought I might be a pianist, engineer or traveling the world doing research in the field. I had many interests and landed on ornithology in particular. I’m not doing exactly those things, but I’m able to go out in the field to conduct bird surveys, make land management decisions that matter and to see the effects of my management on the ground. It is very rewarding.

Do you have any advice for current students that will help them in the future?

My advice for a wildlife biologist looking for a job is to become familiar with the endangered species in your area. A US Fish and Wildlife permit is required for this, but one can often train under someone who holds such a permit. Many consulting firms are hired to do surveys or biomonitoring and require permit holders. You are sought after when you hold these permits.

I think botany skills are also pretty important. It helps greatly to be able to identify native versus non-native plant species. Also, do not stop learning. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I spent a lot of time in school being indecisive about my major. It is okay to not know what you want to do at this point in your life. If you have passions, follow your heart.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

Bird watching is the best hobby/career. I can do it anywhere! I really enjoy birds, and that passion has led me to traveling the world looking for birds. While I am doing that, I see different landscapes and ecosystems, and I interact with different cultures. It is very rewarding and being outside, enjoying nature, is good for my soul.

I still enjoy music, although I do not play much anymore. I also have a strong interest in energy healing and Eastern medicine. They have really helped me love and accept myself more, which in turn helps me love and accept others more. It all intertwines with how I wish to care for the earth.

This article originally appeared on Naturally@UConn.