Fulbright Scholar Returns to Woodard & Curran from her Patagonian Research

One of the key pillars of our mission to prioritize people includes fostering career growth, which takes many forms. We want to support our staff to develop their careers in challenging or innovative ways. For some Woodard & Curran people, that means taking advantage of mentorship opportunities or graduate studies. For Meghan Little, this meant taking a leave of absence to conduct research in Argentina as a Fulbright Scholar. Though she returned to her role as a scientist, conducting ecological risk assessment for environmental clients about a year ago, Meghan recently hosted a lunchtime presentation about her Fulbright research that captivated her colleagues.

Rewilding a Career Path

Meghan graduated from Ohio University in 2019 with a Master of Science in Environmental Studies. Her alma mater agreed to sponsor her application to the Fulbright Program, in which she expressed her intent to partner with a non-governmental organization (NGO) in South America. Rewilding Argentina was founded in 2010 to protect and restore natural ecosystems and develop biological corridors in Latin America. Her proposed research project focused on leveraging her social science and Spanish language skills, interviewing residents of Camarones, a small coastal village that will be at the center of an expanded conservation area if Rewilding Argentina is successful in their aim.

“I’m fascinated by the intersection of people and natural resources, as well as the role people play in environmental conservation,” she said. “I pursued socioecological research during my graduate studies, conducting interviews with communities impacted by newly established national parks to understand their thoughts and motivations regarding resource use and environmental conservation. This, in turn, inspired me to apply to the Fulbright Program with the goal of investigating people’s perceptions of marine conservation efforts in a small Patagonian town.”

Conversations with Patagonian People

Camarones is home to approximately 1,800 people and an area in which Rewilding Argentina’s Patagonia Azul Project wants to expand the protection and work on the restoration of marine ecosystems and generate a marine tourism economy. The small town is the gateway to the Southern Patagonia Marine-Coastal Interjurisdictional Park. Meghan conducted interviews with 31 community members with varied backgrounds. Some people own businesses and rely on tourism for revenue, while others earn a living fishing, working the dock, or staffing the seafood processing plant. Others included municipal employees, park rangers, environmental council members, school directors, sports fishers, and algae collectors.

The goal of the research was to determine the community’s perception of marine conservation efforts and their attitude toward the NGO’s efforts to expand the existing protected area. She recorded the interviews, transcribed responses, and analyzed the data to help the NGO identify gaps in community understanding and plan public outreach campaigns accordingly. While social science is not often at the center of these types of conservation projects, it is critical to engage the community in the process of ecological research and conservation efforts to build relationships with individuals and allow the work to address any concerns or input from area residents.


Kim Reinauer Technical Manager Environmental

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Meghan in Comodoro coding interview transcripts

Meghan exploring Perito Moreno

Meghan sharing her research experience with colleagues in Portland, Maine

Bringing lessons back to the office and field

Woodard & Curran partners with clients who need to conduct ecological risk assessments to evaluate how likely it is that the environment might be impacted from exposure to environmental stressors. Meghan is one of our field scientists who collects abiotic samples in the field, analyzes the data, maps potential uptake into biotic media, and reports the outcomes. When there is a potential risk identified, she returns to the field to collect biotic materials, such as invertebrates or plant tissue to analyze for metals or other constituents. The data derived from this process helps us further map the impact to fish and wildlife to inform intelligent site remediation where necessary.

While the research Meghan conducted in Camarones does not have a direct correlation to her daily job, the experience provides her with a unique perspective of the work we do for our clients across the United States. Many of our clients remediate contaminated sites to either redevelop or conserve the land. Not unlike Rewilding Argentina’s goal of incorporating community input, we often support our clients as they engage area stakeholders in conversations about the site cleanup and future of the land. Meghan’s research provided her the experience of talking to the community about critical efforts with the added challenge of speaking Spanish, her second language. The skills she developed during her research will be invaluable to our clients and her colleagues as she continues to grow her career here at Woodard & Curran.


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