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“Opportunities abound in the West, and the best escape from the ‘real world’ can be just minutes from my doorstep."

After completing her bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology at University of Wisconsin—Madison, graduate student Gabby Zaldumbide set her sights on new horizons, both academically and environmentally, at Western Colorado University. A member of one the first cohorts of the Master’s in Environmental Management (MEM) program, Gabby was excited to forge her path to a career in Public Land Management in the unique mountain environment in Gunnison.

“The fact that the MEM program doesn’t require a GRE score or a traditional thesis [first brought me to Western]. This allowed me to go straight from undergrad to graduate school in a relatively low-stress way. Plus, I was dying to move to the West,” she said.

While earning her degree was a primary goal of attending Western, Gabby has also focused on gaining hands-on experience to further her understanding of the public land management field. She currently serves as the Gunnison Valley Regional Director of Western’s Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) chapter and spends her time outside the classroom participating in conservation events throughout the Gunnison Valley.

“Pretty much everything that I want to do but can’t do within the constructs of the MEM program, I just get to do it through BHA. It’s really enriching,” she said.

In addition to guiding current and future hunters in engaging in ethical practices through BHA, Gabby has also worked on honing her nature writing skills to express how people can use nature to learn about themselves as well as the outdoors that surrounds them. She has published pieces in The Wildlife Society, the official Backcountry Hunters and Anglers website, and even maintains her own wildlife-focused blog online.

As an avid naturalist, Gabby enjoys spending her time outdoors when she’s not studying or working. Her goal is to improve conservation efforts in the Gunnison Valley and beyond.

“I really enjoy the amazing access to public lands so close to town, and it allows me to experience the outdoors every chance I get. Because of being a Gunnison resident, I’ve been able to elk hunt, deer hunt, ice fish, fly fish, climb mountains and smell the scent of warm sage through my windows—things I would have never gotten the chance to do had I stayed in Wisconsin,” she said.

After graduating in May 2020, Gabby plans on pursuing a full-time position as the community manager at Hunt to Eat, a Denver-based organization that supports sustenance hunting, high-quality merchandise and conservation. The lessons she learned at Western regarding chasing opportunities and immersing herself in the natural world will follow her well into her post-graduation life.

Profile by Katie Lyons and Katie Mikesell

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