I had the pleasure of interning at Island Press as a Program Intern for the Conservation Finance Network during the fall semester of my second year of graduate school. As a Master’s Candidate at American University, School of International Service, I relocated to Washington, D.C. a little over a year ago to launch a career at the interface of environmental politics and justice, natural resource management, and social science. I had the opportunity to come to Island Press after previously serving in government as an intern at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of State. Prior to beginning my internship, I had a real interest in large landscape conservation and was very engaged in wanting to learn more about how conservation finance worked in practice.
At the Conservation Finance Network, we strive to advance natural resource conservation by expanding the use of innovative funding and financing strategies, while also sponsoring training activities that support a growing community of practitioners. Simply put, we help facilitate new and exciting ways to protect precious landscapes! Island Press has been a wonderful place to learn something new every day about being creative and innovative in raising the visibility and credibility of important environmental work to new audiences, as well as, being effective as a not-for-profit environmental publisher. Altogether, this work makes a unique contribution to the discourse and practice at the interface of environment, infrastructure, business, economics, and governance.
What I liked most about having the opportunity to come to Island Press was the transition from national and international policy analysis to learning about what practitioners and organizations are focused on at the local and regional program level. I gained an understanding of history and the development of the field of Conservation Finance. This internship was unique because of the significant role that Island Press and the Conservation Finance Network have played in supporting thought leadership around these issues. From this work, I gained insights into the work of land trusts, mitigation banks, individual and institutional investors and federal agencies to address our major environmental challenges using new market-based tools.
One specific project that I worked on was research and preparation for the second convening of the Conservation Finance Practitioners Workshop titled “Conservation Finance: Scalable Investable Repeatable.” I quickly learned about the impact that different strategies for investing in the environment can have on outcomes at the local-level. I was particularly impressed to learn about the increasing engagement around environmental impact investing by capital firms, philanthropic foundations and high net-worth individuals that are increasingly becoming interested in ways to achieve positive environmental outcomes and still achieving market rate returns. The use of markets for wetlands and mitigation banking, as well as, sustainable food and fiber quickly became two areas of socially responsible investing practices that I quickly became inspired to explore outside of my internship.
As a result of my experience working with the Conservation Finance Network, I have learned a great deal about new strategies for landscape scale conservation and conservation finance by unleashing the power of private and philanthropic sectors. As I conclude my internship, I hope to return to school next semester and apply much of this knowledge to academic and non-academic papers, launch my own blog and twitter platforms, and make thoughtful contributions to this growing field through the professional, and potentially academic, sphere in the future.