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Spotlight on Aya Cockram

Aya joined the IWRC staff on December 2nd, 2019.
You can find short bio’s on each of our staff members here!

Q&A with Aya:Staff member Aya Cockram standing in front of a waterfall.

Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.

When I was twelve years old my neighbor rescued a baby squirrel from the jaws of her dog. She gave the little one to me and my parents to care for. The process of researching squirrel care, building her an environment, getting to enjoy her presence and then, the bittersweet experience of releasing her had a significant impact on me during a formative moment in my life. It helped me comprehend that wild (or domestic) creatures, and the natural world itself, has an intrinsic value completely distinct from human valuations. At the same time we all live within systems that inextricably connect us. The act of rehabilitating a creature that, hopefully, will never look back upon its release, seems a significant way to respect their value and those systems upon which we all depend. 

 

How did you initially become involved with IWRC?

The first time I encountered the IWRC was through the job posting for my current position. I was immediately drawn to the blend of wildlife protection and education and love the office culture and passion of the employees! 

 

Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC’s mission.

I have a great affinity for bioregionalism which, among many other things, asserts that knowing ones bioregion not only allows us to live within our environments in an informed way but also creates a deep sense of belonging to a physical place. This knowledge and sense of belonging is believed to naturally lead to pro-environmental behavior. I view the IWRC’s focus on education and their work to continually build on the field of wildlife rehabilitation as critical for improving the welfare of individual wild animals. However, this educational component also creates an important awareness and an ethic of care that is much needed given the current climate and extinction crises. 

 

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

I am particularly proud of what some of my past students have accomplished. One such student cited my Islam and Nature course as an important factor in her decision to pursue a JD in environmental law. Another student from the Environmental Ethics course I TA-ed went on to become a prominent member of the Sunrise Movement and was very informed by this course as well. These are not my accomplishments but they make me feel incredibly fulfilled and part of something larger. I love working in education because you never know how your work will affect your students, they can go on to do things you yourself could not have imagined. 

 

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?

Aldo Leopold! Leopold is a particularly incredible conservation trailblazer because of the ecocentric view of the world he developed and that he was able to do so long before others came to the same conclusions. Through his writing Leopold is able to uncannily express what I feel but cannot myself put into words. Besides all this, he was a dedicated parent and partner, a knowledgeable forester, scientist, and conservationist!

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise”

– Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 262

IWRC staff member Aya in a red sweater sitting on a dune in sunllight

 

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?

While going to school I really enjoyed my research studying Muslim and Islamic environmentalists in Senegal. Although I ultimately don’t see myself as an academic, I still think it would be amazing to continue that research and write a book on the topic.