Programs Zoe manages:
What professional hat do you wear?
I am currently the State Botanist/Ecologist for the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) New Mexico State Office. I manage three BLM programs:
1) Plant Conservation Program which includes native plant material development, Seeds of Success, and botany, including rare plant management
2) Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) program
3) Mitigation program
What does a day in your life look like now?
Previously I worked in the BLM White River Field Office (Meeker, CO) and the Taos Field Office (Taos, NM) and in those positions I worked on numerous NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) documents and had more time in the field. Now that I work at the state level my main focus is program administration and far less time in the field.
I deal mostly with budgets, including seeking funding for projects and obligating funds, developing projects with field office personnel, providing program management, providing technical support, etc. I attend a lot of meetings, primarily national BLM calls that include colleagues from across the country. I also mentor some interns who work on Seeds of Success and AIM projects.
What inspires you to go to work every day?
I love working for the public and being the voice for native plant communities and especially for rare plants. Rare plants do not receive enough attention and are extremely threatened by human activities and climate change. There is a lack of public awareness of these species and I am honored that I can advocate for them in my job.
I also really enjoy the AIM program. Monitoring is often another overlooked activity but it is extremely important for understanding land management decisions. The AIM program brings a paradigm shift (using a statistically rigorous program to monitoring on public lands) and it is exciting to be managing this new program.
How did your degree set you up?
My degree gave me a solid background in the ecological restoration of native plant communities. The program allow me to study everything I need in my career today: soils, plant physiology, statistics, soil/plant interactions, GIS, etc. The course challenged me enough to dive in to each subject.
I was also blessed to work with my advisor, Dr. Mark Paschke, who was a great fit for my learning style and he also inspired me to pursue a career involving ecological restoration.
What words of wisdom can you offer current students?
I always encourage folks to have a deep understanding in GIS, especially if you might be working in a land management position. It is a skill I look for in the applicants I hire.
I also encourage folks to take as many hands-on applicable labs, particularly in vegetation monitoring. It is essential to have the skills in measuring ecological changes. If possible, also learn as much as possible about NEPA as it is essential to federal land management but also important for consultants.
Even though we go into these fields because of our love of science, plants, etc, often, these positions are more about how well you can work/interact with people of different backgrounds. The BLM is a multiple use agency, which means that we must manage for many uses such as livestock, resource extraction, recreation, archeological resources as well as wildlife habitat. To be successful at my job, I must not only respect the multiple use mandate but also work people with different interests in mind (e.g. ranchers, producers, oil & gas workers, off-highway-vehicle recreationists, etc). I recommend students seek opportunities to work side-by-side with folks of different backgrounds and develop skills in consensus building.
Finally, internships directly after school can provide essential experience in land management and are a great way to determine where you want to head. Some great programs are Conservation and Land Management Internship program, Southwest Conservation Corps (AIM position available), and American Conservation Experience.
What motto do you live by?
"I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not." - The Lorax
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." - Albert Einstein