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Future leaders in action

Sean Murphy, a 2005 New London-Spicer graduate, stands by a falls in Rocky Mountain National Park in this undated photo. Murphy is working in the park this summer as part of American Conservation Corps, which is completing various projects in the park. Murphy is an assistant leader in his six-person group. Submitted photo1 / 2
Andrew East, a 2006 Willmar graduate, patrols a lake in northeastern Wisconsin as part of his summer research project for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Northland College. East is gathering data on the effect of climate change on loons and their habitat. Submitted photo2 / 2

Tomorrow's leaders in conservation are out gaining experience today.

Sean Murphy, a 2005 New London-Spicer graduate, and Andrew East, a 2006 Willmar graduate, are both working on summer conservation or research projects that will benefit or are already benefiting wildlife, habitat and conservation.

Murphy, who just graduated with a landscape architecture degree from North Dakota State University, is working in Colorado on making improvements in Rocky Mountain National Park.

East, a natural resources major at Northland College in Ashland, Wis., is doing research for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the college in northeastern Wisconsin.

Murphy is working for the American Conservation Corps, which was founded by the Rocky Mountain Nature Association.

"We've built a bridge, have improved trails and have done various conservation projects (in the park)," Murphy said in a telephone interview earlier in August.

According to a press release from the RMNA, Murphy is the Assistant Leader of a six-person crew which is working 11 weeks in the park.

Murphy worked at the park last summer, also.

"The experience is a great service opportunity," he said. "You get to come here in the summer and enjoy the outdoors in one of the most beautiful parts of the country."

East is focusing on research and field work in his project, LoonWatch, which is a program of Northland College's Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute. He and a partner are collecting data from 28 lakes in the Trout Lake Watershed to help track the effects of climate change on lakes.

"... the climate change portion (the part that Northland is involved with) is essentially baseline data collection to help current models of hydrogeology created by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) relate back to lake-dependent species (one section of all the wildlife/fish/etc. in Wisconsin) so that the IPCC's predictions of the changes in lake trophic status 20, 50, 100 years down the road will be able to be used to make predictions about the probability of loon's lake usage in the future," East explained in an email. "To put it shortly, when northern Wisconsin becomes similar to Arkansas, where will we find loons? What I am doing is collecting data that will be joined with the IPCC's models so that current hydrogeologic models/predictions can allow us to make predictions on living species (the loons are part of the lake-dependent species)."

The IPCC is "the leading body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences," according to the IPCC's web site,

Outdoors experiences influenced both young men to follow a path into conservation.

"I just love the outdoors. I'm actually an Eagle Scout," said Murphy, who will work toward a master's degree in architecture. "I just want to do something to help people out. I get to enjoy what I'm doing and that is great."

"I'm drawn to the natural resources field for a few reasons, one being forced to work outside all the time, but otherwise spending my childhood hunting, fishing, and exploring my family's wooded property were huge in creating a desire to be involved in the science that allows things like that to happen," East wrote.

And both will use their experiences to further their career goals. For Murphy, working on projects in Rocky Mountain National Park gives him the experience he needs to some day build trails and other structures in environmentally-sensitive areas.

East, who has a year left on his bachelor's degree, is getting hands-on work that will look good on applications to graduate school.

"I am gaining many things from this work; specifically, it is direct field research experience that will open a lot of doors for graduate school and public agency work that is beyond general labor," he noted. "Beyond the direct things, I gain a lot of personal satisfaction from working in a field and science that guides policy that affects so much and is so important to so many people."

The future for conservation appears to be in capable hands.