Tagged new board member

Spotlight on New Board Member, Ashley Ihrke

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?

I started volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center in early 2017 and became a staff member shortly before

 going back to graduate school that same year. Once I became a staff member, I did more research and background around professional organizations in the wildlife rehabilitation field and discovered IWRC. I signed up as a member that year and have beena member since. Since graduating from school in 2019, I left my position at the rehabilitation center and have been involved as a volunteer helping sporadically when my work schedule allows with the center and other local rehabilitators. When the email came stating there were openings for the board, I found myself interested in the possibility of serving as a board member since I was not able to commit full-time to working as a wildlife rehabilitator and saw it as an opportunity to be involved and serve the rehabilitation community at another level.  

 

Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)

I have a diverse background having switched careers 6 years ago. My education includes a BS in Ecology and Field Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Biology followed by a Masters in Environmental Health and Safety (heavily concentrated in occupational safety and industrial hygiene).  This masters served as my primary profession for about four years in both public and private entities before I decided that it wasn’t what I wanted.  However, with this education and professional experience, I have gained a wide range of knowledge on public health, emergency management, and occupational and environmental regulations that have become very helpful in other aspects of life from volunteering roles to wildlife rescue to engaging with general members of the public to rehabilitating.  Since obtaining my second graduate degree, I have felt that I am able to serve my fellow rehabilitation community in other ways than just animal care by aiding in understanding regulations and public policy at a local, state, and federal level, helping to identify ways to approach and engage with different populations within the community and be more active as an advocate for wildlife conservation and welfare.

 

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

Completing a second graduate degree is one of the biggest accomplishments I consider significant in my career. I went ahead knowing that it was going to be a challenge and a significant change to my personal life as well. It also meant more to me as it was a subject I was passionate about since a young age. I managed to complete a Masters of Science in four semesters with a defended thesis and a GPA of 4.0. It was something I worked extra hard for and happily achieved.

 

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

I have a wide range of interests, but if I were to do something else professionally it would be to be a lobbyist. I enjoy the legislative process and actively engage in public policy at different levels. While in high school, I considered the environmental law school path to become more involved with politics for wildlife and natural resources.  

 

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

This is such a difficult question to answer because the first animal that came to mind was a skunk, and then a vulture. I know I would enjoy both as a wild animal in life. Skunks have such distinct personalities and a wide variety of colorings. They have this amazing ability to deter most species just from their scent!  For vultures, they are unseen and unwanted by many humans but they are such essential species in the role of maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Vultures are smart and resourceful birds with dynamic family groups.

 

What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?

Traveling excites me so much that it keeps me awake the night before. I am sure it is partially due to the stress of traveling: ensuring that the flight is on-time or no car troubles during the road trip, hoping for fair weather, and making sure I didn’t forget anything while packing. The excitement of heading somewhere new or somewhere you have been countless times before but always look forward to heading back to.  

 

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

Shelby is my 14-year-old yorkiepoo. She has a unique background and is considered a rescue. She was returned by her adopted family to the original breeder (they had one litter, and adopted all the pups out but one). Shelby was a shell of a dog, scared and shy when she came tome at 4.5 years old. It took a full year for her to feel comfortable with the human touch and want to be near you. She is spoiled now!  In the ten years she has been with me she has come to enjoy giving kisses, loves to cuddle on the couch or in bed, and isn’t afraid to voice her opinions. Shelby still has some fears: she is terrified over the smell of any kind of fire and smoke, a pan sizzling, and fireworks.

Spotlight on New Board Member, Lindsay Jones

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

From my earliest memories, I have always felt a close connection with all animals. As a young child, I was always bringing home stray animals and those in need of care, much to the dismay of my family. I started attending The Green River Preserve around the 3rd grade, which is a nature camp for gifted and motivated learners located in the mountains of North Carolina. There I was taught that our wildlife was to be respected, not feared, and I learned to walk through the forests as a mere visitor. Between the countless sightings, encounters, and education with wildlife at camp, I believe that this set me on a trajectory to become a wildlife biologist and rehabilitator. I have always felt that animals needed a voice, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. 

 

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level? 

Around the time I was graduating college with a BS in Animal Biology, I briefly spent time volunteering at Walden’s Puddle Wildlife Center in Joelton, TN, which turned out to have a dramatic impact on my career path. Shortly after arriving in Wyoming after college, I realized that there was a real need to provide care to injured and orphaned animals, especially considering that Jackson Hole’s economy relies heavily on our wildlife industry. I eventually co-founded the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (TWRC) which filled a much needed gap in the west for wildlife, where I served as Co-Founder, Executive Director, wildlife rehabilitation specialist, and Vice President from 2015-April 2020.

During my tenure, I exposed myself to as much education and training as I could possibly handle, which of course included rehabilitation classes taught by the IWRC. I am currently taking a break with wildlife rehabilitation to pursue other opportunities and get my bearings after separating from my non-profit. In lieu of not being in a position to help wildlife at the moment, joining the IWRC board is a great way for me to feel like I can still make a difference and stay connected with our wonderful wildlife rehabilitation community. I also wore many hats during my time at TWRC, and I believe that my well-rounded experience will be very helpful in furthering IWRC’s mission and goals.

 

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

I feel like I could be diving in head first here, but I truly feel a calling to contribute to building our membership base in addition to helping with development. Because I built my own rehabilitation non-profit from the ground up, I was extremely involved with our donor base, networking, outreach, and the building of our policies, just to name a few. These experiences are still very fresh in my mind and extremely vital to the success of an organization, so I can’t wait to jump in and offer my time in these areas to the people who have already established such an important and thriving organization.

 

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

By far, I would consider the starting of my non-profit, the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, to be the most significant of my career. I always knew that I loved animals, which is why I chose to major in Animal Biology instead of going the medical route. However, I never knew exactly how I would utilize my degree until I spent some time at a rehabilitation center around the time of graduation. I had a Eureka moment after my brief time at Walden’s Puddle in Joelton, TN, and knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to the world of wildlife rehabilitation. 

Starting such a needed facility in the western U.S., not only in an intact ecosystem, but also amongst a sea of very established non-profits, really stands out among all of my other achievements. I will forever tout this as one of the most amazing accomplishments of my life and I am so proud to know that I contributed to the long-term well-being and survival of our wildlife.

 

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

In my next lifetime, I hope to be a forensic pathologist. I have early memories from high school, perhaps even earlier, of being fascinated with the cycle of life. I also have a predisposition for detective work and the minutiae of details, and I have always been intrigued with the events surrounding life and death. Who knows, there’s always room for multiple careers! 

 

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

I can’t say that I firmly believe that this animal has the best advantage in the wild, but I have an absolutely cosmic connection with owls (of all species). Perhaps not by choice, but by default, I would be an owl.

 

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

I share my life with my beautiful dog, Fern, and my two cats, Stanley and Jerry. I affectionately refer to them as my “roommates”, except I pay their rent. The cats are much more like dogs, where they love to go for walks and bike rides with Fern. They also get first priority on bed space, in case there were any questions.