Around the Water Cooler: Getting to Know Shauna Ginger
From field stations to headquarters and from social scientists to stakeholders, the human dimensions of natural resources play a major role in conservation! We all have different attitudes, beliefs, and values stemming from our personal backgrounds, interests and experiences. One of the best ways to bridge gaps, understand our audiences and grow as a conservation agency is to take a moment to get to know each other!
Conversations in HD Blog features a fun interview with a Service employee to help get to know each other better. We encourage you to venture out into your community, grab a cup of coffee and do the same!
Meet Shauna Ginger!
I’ve been with the Service 12 years this January, the last 5 in the Oregon field office and starting this year, I’m working half time for the Pacific Northwest regional office. I work on ecosystem services, most recently focused on mitigation programs for Greater sage-grouse. I’m one of few in the agency who focuses solely on this topic so I often participate on national discussions and policy development around ecosystem services.
I earned my bachelors at the University of Arkansas and masters at Oklahoma State University. My first job was as a research crew leader for the Louisiana black bear repatriation program. I got to climb den trees and monitor mama black bears and their cubs. This subspecies of black bear was a listed entity, and home base for our work was on a national wildlife refuge, so that’s how I was introduced to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I started my career with the Service in a field office in Jackson, Mississippi, in listing and recovery as the mammologist. During my almost 7 years there I was also given the opportunity to be the recovery lead for gopher tortoise. The tortoise work covered multiple states and had me working on a variety of different projects, including mitigation. My eyes were open to the world of ecosystem services and I dove in fully.
Why did you choose this career?
If you ask my parents, they might say I was born a wildlife biologist.
From a very young age I had an interest in nature. I was always outside- exploring and digging for dinosaur bones in my mom’s garden. She wasn’t very happy with that. I was also influenced by watching shows like Wild Kingdom and reruns of Daktari, reading National Geographic and joining 4-H. I raised rabbits and tracked their genetics and documented all the different birds that came to our backyard feeders.
I always loved science and being outdoors. When I started college, I was in a pre-med focused biology program. As an undergrad, I gravitated to the ecology classes, hung out with graduate students, and subsequently helped in labs and with field work in cool places like the Caribbean and Nova Scotia. There were few students who were non-medical majors interested in wildlife biology and ecology, which provided more opportunity for me to explore. That is really when my career path in wildlife conservation began.
Why is it important to foster social science understanding within the Service?
The Louisiana black bear research is when the broader social science work first hit me. Hunters and other community members would come to the wildlife refuge and talk about bringing back large carnivores. I learned what a Friends group could do in the community and how broad stakeholder involvement was key to conservation success. In a few short years, I watched a community in the Mississippi Delta go from being afraid of bears to embracing and understanding their wildlife heritage through an annual festival connected to educational programs. It was inspiring.
I’m really excited about the recent White House memo directing federal agencies to incorporate ecosystem services into decision-making. It could be a game changer for how we consider social science (and economic science) in conservation work.
What are people surprised to learn about your area of expertise?
The three legged stool of sustainability-- social-economic-environmental-- is something that students now are learning as a basis for conservation but wasn’t taught when I was in school. A lot of people in the Service came up with a more traditional wildlife ecology or management background like I did. I think it surprises people in the Service that I’m a listing/recovery biologist who is now focused on environmental markets.
What is your favorite part of working with people to further conservation?
Finding common ground with private landowners has always been one of my favorite parts of working with people to further conservation. When I first started working with Louisiana black bears and gopher tortoises, I would meet with private landowners, drink a lot of sweet tea, and have difficult but rewarding conversations with them. I found out these folks had a huge conservation land ethic and had a lot of the same common goals as the Service, but they would get lost in the rhetoric of the ESA or “government” stigmas. It’s when you find that common goal, that sweet spot, that’s really rewarding to me. It is the same with our public agency partners. I’ve seen common goals met, and conservation forwarded, most recently with our work on sage-grouse.
Do you want to Keep Portland Weird?
I love that it’s weird here. Generally this community is more accepting - I like that, and I think it’s an incubator for ideas. It is no accident that a lot of the work I’m doing with ecosystem services has been going on in the Pacific North West for a long time. It might have been harder to get off the ground in other places.
Do you prefer Mountains or Beaches?
I prefer to live near mountains; it’s the trees I think. I would live in a treehouse if I could. For vacationing, however, I do prefer beaches. Beaches are somewhere I can relax (and they are generally warm – I’m not a fan of being cold!).
Do you have pets? How did they get their names?
I have two cats, Chinle and Clyde. Chinle is 17 years old. She is named after a town in North East Arizona, on Navajo lands, where you can see the Painted Dessert. As a diluted tortoiseshell tabby, she’s the same color as that landscape-with alternating bands of light gray, cream, and muted orange.