About SFS

Alumni Profiles

Claire Poelking

Kenya & Tanzania Spring '12

Claire Poelking

About

It sounds silly in retrospect, but one of my most striking memories was learning just how many people lived their lives each day alongside iconic East African wildlife.

 
SFS PROGRAM: Wildlife Management Studies | Kenya & Tanzania | Spring 2012
HOME SCHOOL WHILE AT SFS: University of Wisconsin-Madison
CURRENT POSITION: Program Officer, Conservation and Sustainable Development, MacArthur Foundation

 
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SFS MEMORY?
It sounds silly in retrospect, but one of my most striking memories was learning just how many people lived their lives each day alongside iconic East African wildlife. When I thought of wildlife management as a kid from Chicago, I had not considered local human communities or how they are impacted by their proximity to wildlife and the protected areas tourists visit to see wildlife. It was illuminating to learn from farmers, pastoralists, conservationists, and scientists the intricacy and nuance of these human-wildlife relationships and how much of wildlife management is actually managing relationships with people.

 
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR WORK?
I oversee grant-making to nonprofit organizations working on environmental conservation in the Great Lakes of East Africa, Greater Mekong Basin in Southeast Asia, and the Tropical Andes of South America. This includes conducting research, reviewing grant proposals, managing three portfolios of grants, and working with grantee organizations.

 
DID SFS PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR CAREER PATH?
SFS absolutely contributed to me being where I am now! I went on to earn a Masters in Natural Resources and Environment, and a large part of my degree was spent researching and writing a thesis about the effects of protected areas and community wildlife conservancies on pastoralist livelihoods in and around Maasai Mara National Reserve in southwest Kenya. Now, I work to support conservation organizations that include communities and local perspectives in their work protecting biodiversity, many of which are located in East Africa.

 
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A PROSPECTIVE STUDENT?
I would tell students to get to know the staff: the cooks, drivers, maintenance crew, professors, everyone that helps to make your experience what it is! SFS has found some really incredible people, and I highly encourage students to meet and learn from all of them.

 
RECOMMEND A GREAT BOOK OR FILM THAT HAD AN INFLUENCE ON HOW YOU VIEW THE ENVIRONMENT.
I recently finished reading “Conservation Refugees” by Mark Dowie. This book chronicles the struggles between indigenous peoples and Western conservation models and organizations. The book reminds us that there are many, many ways to be good stewards of the land and its resources and often the more local and culturally appropriate the conservation mechanisms, the better they work for both the environment and the people and wildlife that call it home.

 
DESCRIBE A FAVORITE SPOT IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS FOR EXPLORING AND REFLECTION.
I am transfixed by anywhere with African acacia trees. They make for the. most. beautiful. silhouette. during a sundowner. Watching the sun set over the savannah is one of my very favorite things in the world.

 

November 2019