I was part of the first class to graduate from UK, in what originally was a B.S. in Agriculture with a focus on Natural Resource Conservation. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to do a field semester abroad my junior year at the University of South Australia in Adelaide where I broadened my field skills. My first conservation related work experience began during my final year when I started working in the forest genetics lab with Dr. David Wagner. Upon graduation I continued to work in his lab but also began working to create the initial geographic information system (GIS) dataset for Robinson Forest. 

I eventually began working seasonally with Dr. Mary Arthur on a forest ecology study in New Hampshire based out of Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. This position immersed me in forest ecology field work and exposed me to a wealth of knowledge via collaboration and interaction with other seasonal field staff, graduate students and professors/researchers, which eventually led me to graduate studies in Forest Ecology, specializing in GIS at UK. I pursued the non-thesis master‘s degree track, which enabled me to work as a research assistant for Dr. Arthur on a forest ecology study in the Catskill Mountains in New York. Toward the end of my program, I also worked part time for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources as a GIS technician converting historic field records of rare species into spatial data.

Since completing my graduate studies, I have had the opportunity to work in the private, nonprofit and government sectors. My initial position was with a small GIS consulting group in Asheville, NC which worked with nonprofits, private companies and local governments on conservation related issues. The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) in Berea lured me back to Kentucky to work on natural resource projects and a national community forestry initiative. Eventually I returned to the private sector where I spent a few years working for a Lexington based startup company which focused on outdoor asset management.

My next opportunity was working for nearly a decade working as a GIS Specialist for the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, a small state agency focused on protecting, inventorying and monitoring the state‘s threatened and endangered species. While there I had the opportunity to be the lead editor and contributing author of KSNPC's book Kentucky’s Natural Heritage: An Illustrated Guide to Biodiversity. The book is a visual exploration of Kentucky‘s natural world and contains a foreword by Wendell Berry. 

Currently I am working as the Assistant Director of the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, a statewide conservation organization working to protect, connect and restore wildlands. KNLT formed in the mid-90s to protect Blanton Forest, the state's largest old-growth forest. Since then our work has expanded to include the Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor, the largest conservation effort in Kentucky history. KNLT believes in the power of partnership and recently begun a unique partnership with the Forecastle Foundation. The Foundation has provided new funding for our work on Pine Mountain and links our work to conservation efforts in Brazil by Guayaki.

I have found that every opportunity, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, can lead to unique experiences. It is truly important to develop relationships and contacts with professionals in the field. Internships, part-time/seasonal jobs and memberships in professional societies are all essential to developing a network that will help you find your way in this field. The conservation field is a continually rewarding one that I welcome daily and feel fortunate to be a part of.


Contact Greg at: gabernathy@knlt.org