Kris Tempel works 2500 miles away from Vermont as a Resource Specialist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) in Kalispell, Mont. But when she got serious about looking for a graduate school to continue her education, Green Mountain College was at the top of her list.
“I met a woman, Lori Curtis (a 2010 graduate of the MSES), who raved about the program. I was really impressed with some of the projects she did, so I was pretty much sold.”
Kris investigated some local options for grad school, but an online program at Montana State University was on a semester system and her busy work schedule meant she could take only one course at a time.
“It would have taken four years to get through,” she said. “The intensive six-week courses at GMC were tough, but I was able to make it fit in with my work schedule and graduate within two years.”
Kris grew up in Montana and loved being outdoors—“I wanted to be a biologist ever since I can remember,” she says.
She was intrigued by oceanography, and went to Oregon State to earn her degree in fisheries science. She moved back to Montana and got a job with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Region 1, in the northwest corner of the state. As a resource specialist, she is in charge of fisheries and wildlife habitat conservation in the Flathead River region.
Her job requires her to balance the interests of farming, development and recreation interests, and a strong grasp of policy as well as field research.
“People in the state are leery about government intrusion, but they also love the land. Farmers want to be able to farm. People who love the outdoors want to be able to fish and hunt and camp. It’s all comes down to protecting habitat.”
Land conservation is a big part of her department’s work. FWP recently worked with a local land trust to protect farmland and wildlife habitat along the north shore of Flathead Lake, creating the North Shore Wildlife Management Area.
Her work also entails study of wildlife populations and preservation of natural habitat. She was able to combine her fieldwork at FWP with her MSES thesis on cottonwood restoration.
Kris was the only student in the program from Montana but she never felt disconnected from her classmates. She credits the residency as a key experience in her grad school experience.
“I felt like I knew everyone from the deep online discussions we were having. Meeting face to face with fellow students and faculty really reinforced those relationships.”