Alumni Spotlight: Betsy Mortensen '10 B.S. Wildlife Biology

Conservation Career takes Betsy Mortensen to Rockefeller Center
Betsy Mortensen grew up with nature. Her dad, an avid hunter and angler, always spent time outside with her and fostered her passion for wildlife. Her love for the outdoors brought her to Colorado State University and eventually landed her a job with one of the top conservation families in the United States - The Roosevelts.

Mortensen is a graduate of CSU’s wildlife biology program in the Warner College of Natural Resources. Today she works at Rockefeller Center in New York City as an executive and research assistant to Simon Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s great-great grandson. An avid outdoorsman and part of a family with an unparalleled conservation legacy, Roosevelt is an international investment executive and environmentalist who is interested in improving collaborative conservation partnerships between hunting and conservation organizations. It is an interest that closely matches Mortensen’s.

While hunting and fishing might not be obviously synonymous with conservation to some, the sports have historically been the leading drivers of support to conservation movements. New campaigns, like "Hug A Hunter" have been increasing public awareness of the important support for conservation efforts that is generated through the sale of hunting licenses, tags, and stamps. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly $200 million in hunters' federal excise taxes are distributed each year to State agencies to support wildlife management programs.
Mortensen’s academic background in wildlife biology and personal experiences as an outdoor enthusiast prepared her to collaborate with Roosevelt on his various conservation projects. Roosevelt established and leads a Conservation Roundtable that includes top executives from 13 of the nation’s largest organizations for hunting and conservation. The Roundtable meets regularly to discuss projects and viewpoints on policies so they can work together to move conservation efforts forward. Mortensen also conducts research for a book Roosevelt is writing about the heritage of hunting, public lands, and conservation, and she is working on policy issues, including efforts to get a question about national parks on the U.S. Citizenship Test.

During her time at CSU, Mortensen stayed busy. She joined The Wildlife Society (TWS) student chapter, studied at Pingree Park, and was an honor’s student. Faculty member Rick Knight was her honor’s thesis advisor, and Mortensen feels he was an inspiration for her future.  As a TWS member, she loved going to talks, listening to researchers and participating in club activities with other members. “If you are a wildlife major and not in that club, well - it just doesn’t make sense,” she said.

She finished her Bachelors of Science in three years, and went on to earn her masters at the University of Cambridge in only nine months. “I was so passionate about wanting to get into the environmental field I knew I had to do well,” she explained.

Mortensen worked hard to earn her education and had to be persistent post-graduation to land her job with Roosevelt. She held two seasonal wildlife positions, applied for 50 jobs, and went on eight interviews before eventually landing a salaried position with Roosevelt.

“Because I finished school so quickly, I had to overcome the challenges of finding a job without much work experience on my resume,” she explained. “Academic experience is important, but it’s also equally important for students to build their resumes during school and really diversify their experience.”  

Mortensen is grateful for her job with Roosevelt and is gaining new skills and making new connections. While she never planned on living in the concrete jungle of New York City, she’s enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be sitting at a table with top conservation CEOs of organizations like The National Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy.

One day, Mortensen would like to work for the Nature Conservancy or The National Audubon Society activating conservation initiatives and planning. Ultimately, she aims to start her own organization that connects conservation and hunting. The relationship between hunting and fishing and conservation can be misunderstood and Mortensen believes there is opportunity for the connection between the two to be better explained. 

By Marissa Isgreen
Posted on May 7, 2014

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