TWS welcomes new Conservation Affairs Network fellow

The Wildlife Society has selected Kelly O’Connor to serve in the new position of Conservation Affairs Network fellow.

O’Connor will head the Conservation Affairs Network, which connects TWS unit leaders with opportunities and resources to engage in policy.

“My goals for this position is to create sort of an easy access as a centralized person for the communications already happening in the network,” O’Connor said. Part of that involves offering training opportunities and policy resources to sections and chapters that may be less engaged. “I’m sort of the centralized hub for folks to grow their communications in sections and chapters,” she said.

The network operates through Conservation Affairs Committees (CACs) within TWS sections and chapters that identify and address policy priorities within their regions. The Wildlife Society staff and the CACs work together, providing experience and expertise to one another on conservation issues.

“We’re excited to have Kelly in this new position as we work to grow unit-level engagement in policy issues of importance to the wildlife profession,” said Caroline Murphy, government relations manager at The Wildlife Society.

O’Connor earned her undergraduate and master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries conservation at the University of Connecticut. She worked on her master’s degree on a federal candidate species, the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). “That was my first foray into working with listed species and federal wildlife policy and how it impacts folks on the ground,” she said. She attended a fly-in in D.C. to speak to senators and representatives about importance of funding for this work.

O’Connor’s previous position was with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, where she worked on permitting guidance for state-listed species like gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus), gopher frogs (Lithobates capito) and indigo snakes (Drymarchon couperi).

In her new position with TWS, O’Connor is excited to expand the scope of her work to the national level. She hopes to help involve more wildlife professionals in policy. She knows from personal experience, she said, how hard it can be to get involved.

“I was an active wildlife manager, and there were definitely policy changes happening at the state and regional levels having a big impact on the work I was doing,” O’Connor said. “I genuinely had no idea how I could be involved in that, or if I was allowed to be involved with that.”

Header Image: Kelly O'Connor is heading The Wildlife Society's Conservation Affairs Network in the new position of CAN fellow. Credit: Courtesy Kelly O'Connor.