At Natural Lands, we often talk about being in the business of forever. We take on perpetual responsibility for the lands under our care. That responsibility extends not only to the land itself, but also to the future generations who will care for, protect, and benefit from it. Just as our ecosystem is stronger and more resilient with a diversity of plants, insects, and wildlife, so too is our organization when we can build a diverse community of staff, board, volunteers, and visitors.
As one small step toward that goal, Natural Lands welcomed Tiffany Serra-Pichardo (right) and Ayla Moulder-Tyler (left) to our newly established 21st Century Fellowship Program this past summer. This full-time, 12-month, paid fellowship is open to applicants who identify as Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color. It offers the opportunity for fellows to gain experience in all aspects of land management and community outreach, and to learn the workings of a nonprofit land trust. The two recent college grads have been learning on the job at ChesLen and Saunders Woods Preserves, respectively.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to get hands-on, especially since so much of my university field work was cancelled because of COVID,” said Tiffany, who just completed her dual undergraduate degrees in finance and environmental studies with a concentration in geology at Cornell College in Iowa. “I grew up in the Bronx, New York, and Allentown, Pennsylvania. School-based nature activities and passionate teachers inspired my love of the natural world. Creating a path for a more diverse work force in conservation has to start before folks are ready to start their career. Exposing kids to nature is essential.”
Ayla comes to us after graduating from Drexel University with a B.S. in environmental science and a concentration in ecology and conservation. Based at Natural Lands’ 25-acre Saunders Woods Preserve and the neighboring 21-acre Idlewild Farm Preserve, both in Gladwyne, Ayla has found remarkable the diversity and volume of wildlife that thrives in these relatively small, preserved spaces. “I got into this field because of the threat of climate change and how scary that felt to me as a kid. I want people to appreciate how small we humans are in the face of these bigger forces. We are all connected.”
In addition to their preserve-based work, our fellows will gain experience in other Natural Lands departments including Communications and Engagement, Development, Conservation, and Finance and Administration.
“Natural Lands’ Board of Trustees is thrilled that Ayla and Tiffany are here and helping to craft this fellowship opportunity,” said Trustee Jason Duckworth, who was instrumental in helping to raise the funds to pay for the program. “Their hard work and dedication to Natural Lands’ mission during their tenure here will pave the way for future fellows and a new generation of professionals in the conservation field.”
For more information on how you too can invest in a diverse, sustainable, next-generation workforce to carry conservation work into the future, please contact Ann Hausmann, vice president of development.