Teller’s Ballard wins conservation award

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Nicole Ballard, education program manager at Teller Wildlife Refuge, is the 2022 recipient of the Missoula Conservation Roundtable’s Emerging Conservationist Award. Photo by Michael Howell.

by Michael Howel

Nicole Ballard, education program manager for the Teller Wildlife Refuge, was selected last week as the recipient of the 2022 Emerging Conservationist Award by the Missoula Conservation Roundtable. The informal organization meets annually to remember, honor and celebrate leaders from the wider community of Missoula, including the Bitterroot and Blackfoot River Valleys, for their accomplishments in many areas of resource conservation. Each year, past nominees for the awards come together to select a new list of recipients for recognition. As a result, the group making the selection has grown since its founding in 1995 to include 85 former members.

The Emerging Conservationist Award recognizes emerging leadership in natural resource management or environmental protection through individual action and effective partnerships. Ballard’s love for wildlife and the outdoors is palpable to anyone who has met her. Her enthusiasm for talking about wildlife and conservation is visceral and genuine.

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Growing up in the small town of Hermosa (pop. 300) in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Ballard did a lot of hiking, camping, and fishing in his youth. It was that first experience with wildlife and the outdoors and talking about it with others, she said, that ignited a passion in her that only intensified over the years. year.

“I knew before I left high school that I wanted to do something with wildlife,” Ballard said, “so I studied wildlife programs at four-year colleges and chose the University of Montana. .” At UM, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology with a minor in Nonprofit Administration.

His first outdoor job at the age of 15 was actually giving tours at Rushmore Cave. Later, she gained good hands-on wildlife experience working in a reptile zoo for a few years and a summer as a zookeeper at the North Dakota Zoo, where she was able to manage around 120 species of animals. wild.

But while she enjoys working with wildlife, Ballard has just as much passion for telling people about it. It has always been part of his job. Whether in the cave, at the zoo, or in the wild, Ballard has always found herself educating people at the same time.

Teller Wildlife Refuge Education Program Manager Nicole Ballard has been selected as the 2022 recipient of the Emerging Conservationist Award by the Missoula Conservation Roundtable. Nicole is pictured outside the shelter’s office in Corvallis with her boss, executive director Sam Lawry (right) and Missoula Conservation Roundtable member Tom Powers (left) who nominated her for the prestigious award. Photo by Michael Howell.

“That’s what I loved the most,” she says, “to see a young person’s face light up when he learns these facts. They want to know more. When you can see that excitement and passion growing in people, that’s what it’s all about. I realized this is where I want to go with wildlife, to save our natural world and protect what we love and need to survive.

From her college education, she jumped straight into her “dream field” by accepting a full-time job offer from the Teller Wildlife Refuge as an education program manager where she demonstrated not just an effusive passion for the job, but plenty of skill and expertise that proves effective and the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

Tom Powers, who nominated Ballard for the award, said, “Nicole has done an incredible job in just one year at Teller.” Since June 1, 2021, Ballard has grown the shelter’s education program by 270%.

“When I arrived, there wasn’t a really aggressive education program,” Ballard said. “It was passive. There was no active educator. My job was to create an education program from scratch.

“Teller Refuge’s mission is to inspire, educate and demonstrate conservation action,” she said. “My position is at the heart of this mission.

Under his leadership, Teller’s education program grew from four offerings to 25. The number of school programs increased from five to 11, and the number of partnership programs increased from five to 14. The total number of programs is increased from 14 in 2021 to 50 in 2022. under his leadership. She also managed to raise about $30,000 in grant funds for teaching supplies including items such as model animal tracks, feces, skulls and horns for identification lessons. She also works directly with school teachers to tailor educational programs to the teacher’s interests. Programs can be delivered in the school classroom or at the shelter.

Sam Lawry, Executive Director of Teller, said, “We are delighted that Nicole is offering this diverse conservation education program here at Teller. Conservation education is key to our mission and Nicole develops the program in a way that connects the community with on-the-ground conservation messages to a diverse audience. His passion and enthusiasm not only reaches classrooms, but also adult education as well as social media platforms. She is truly a conservation warrior.

Ballard also established a library for school and community use. She points out that the shelter’s programs are for the whole community, serving students from kindergarten through high school as well as adults. The number of young people served should increase from 370 to 1,350 during this year. The number of adults served is expected to increase from 95 in 2021 to 350 in 2022.

The shelter’s summer camp program is also thriving, according to Ballard. The first are already filled and have waiting lists. A speaker series for adults is also in the works and is scheduled for the 2nd Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. June through September. The talks are free and take place at the shelter.

The actual awards presentations are scheduled to take place outside Fort Missoula Regional Park, Bella Vista Pavilion, Thursday, September 22 at 6 p.m.

The full list of 2022 Conservation Roundtable winners includes: The Don Aldrich – Len Broberg Prize; Arnold Bolle–Beth Schenk Award; Burk/Brandborg Prize – Kevin Davis; Emerging Environmentalist Award – Nicole Ballard; Lifetime Retention Award – Mike Thompson.

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