A Woman for the Wild: Tessa Lightfoot

By: Tessa Lightfoot
With an introduction by: Chris Talbot-Heindl

Introduction: the 100 Women for the Wild Emerging Female Leader Internship

In Rocky Mountain Wild staff meetings, it’s not unusual to hear Matt lament about being vastly out-numbered. This is because Rocky Mountain Wild’s staff is mostly women, including our senior scientists and GIS Director! This is a rarity in STEM fields. Women are largely underrepresented in STEM fields. Recent studies have shown that more than 52% of women who enter STEM careers leave them within 12 years, often due to harassment, discrimination, and lack of upward mobility offered to women in those fields.

Women who do make it in a STEM field often work alone, lack mentoring pathways, and lack opportunities to advance and explore leadership positions.

And that is why Rocky Mountain Wild has created our 100 Women for the Wild Emerging Female Leader Internship! Our 100 Women for the Wild members help pay for a paid internship where one woman, on her journey toward a STEM career, can get a leg up on mentoring and leadership skills to help her succeed in that field!

We are excited to introduce this summer’s 100 Women for the Wild Intern, Tessa Lightfoot.

Meet Tessa Lightfoot

Tessa Lightfoot's 100 Women for the Wild Internship
Tessa Lightfoot with the Front Range Pika Project crew (Tessa pictured in the pink shirt)

Hello! I’m Tessa Lightfoot. I am happy to introduce myself as the 100 Women for the Wild Summer Intern. I am currently an undergraduate student at Colorado College, pursuing a degree in Organismal Biology and Ecology and a minor in Environmental Science. This summer I have the privilege of working with two amazing women: Paige Singer and Megan Mueller. As Rocky Mountain Wild’s head Conservation Biologists, they are involved in SO many important projects, and I am excited to be a part of a few of those.

I began my internship by cruising up I-70 to the proposed site for “I-70 Wild Byway,” a wildlife crossing structure over the highway. To better understand the presence and abundance of different species in the area, Paige and her crew set up a series of motion-activated camera traps to monitor animal movement. We collected the data recorded on these cameras, and scrolling through thousands of photos of different animals made it clear how important these lands are to numerous species; I was surprised to see bear, moose, elk, deer, coyote, and porcupine. Photographic data is easy to understand and, thus, is a compelling way to illustrate that the crossing structure will be utilized frequently by a wide range of animals. Constructing this overpass is an important step towards to creating a connected landscape that allows safer and more fluid animal movement.

More recently, I joined Paige at the Safe Passages Stakeholder Site Visits around Vail. We drove to various locations along I-70 and US-6 where there is potential to improve wildlife crossings and prevent vehicle-wildlife collisions. Some options being considered include building or modifying wildlife fencing, expanding box culverts, and even building wildlife crossing structures. I learned about the thought process behind each of these proposals and heard opinions of the many stakeholders. It was illuminating to meet men and women working in a range of different professions that involve biology and conservation.

On the other aspect of my internship, I am working with Megan on the Front Range Pika Project, conducting fieldwork and assisting with training citizen scientists in data collection protocol. I enjoyed traveling to Buena Vista, where we trained members of Colorado Fourteeners Initiative and Southwest Conservation Corps. This amazing adventure involved many things I love: camping, hiking, and biology.

This week I am looking forward to Front Range Pika Project’s citizen scientist training sessions, which will occur both in the classroom and in the field. Additionally, I hope to get into the field with Megan or other crewmembers to collect some of our own data and spend time gaining experience in the field.

I feel so honored to be involved with this organization and learn from so many amazing women involved in wildlife conservation. So far, my experience has been eye opening and I can’t wait for what is to come in the final weeks of my internship with Rocky Mountain Wild!

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