Call to the wild: Jade Arneson finds passion in wildlife, inspiration from Aldo Leopold

Arneson is first-ever UW-Green Bay recipient of the Aldo Leopold Memorial Scholarship

While an undergraduate student at UW-Madison a few years ago, current UW-Green Bay graduate student Jade Arneson scanned the shelves of the library searching for a copy of A Sand County Almanac, authored by former UW-Madison Prof. Aldo Leopold, one of the most well-known conservationists of the 20th century.

While there were plenty of Almanac’s to choose from, Arneson perused through several copies before finding one she particularly gravitated towards—one with small sketches of wildlife inside, and a specific, personalized dedication. Her own copy of A Sand County Almanac looks much like the one she found a few years ago in that library; personalized and filled with sketches.

This was the beginning of Arneson’s connection with Leopold, one that she wrote about in her application for the Aldo Leopold Memorial Scholarship. Just a few weeks ago, the second-year student in UW-Green Bay’s Master’s Degree Program in Environmental Science and Policy, found out that she would be the recipient of the prestigious and competitive award, provided and selected by the Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Never before given to a UW-Green Bay student, the award provides a significant scholarship to the recipient who has “made a commitment to the wildlife profession and has shown exceptional commitment to developing themselves professionally.”

Lesa Kardash (right), chair of the Leopold Scholarship review committee presents the award to Jade Arneson (left). Photo by Amy Carrozzino-Lyon.

Emphasizing her connection to Leopold and her personal and professional experiences within the conservation field, Arneson is dedicating her life to Leopold’s values which grew out of his lifetime of experience spent in the outdoors.

Leopold wrote, “we can only be ethical in relation to something we can see, understand, feel, love, or otherwise have faith in.”

“Aldo Leopold believed that direct contact with the natural world was crucial in shaping our ability to extend our ethics beyond our own self-interest,” according to “He hoped his essays would inspire others to embark or continue on a similar lifelong journey of outdoor exploration, developing an ethic of care that would grow out of their own close personal connection to nature.”

In her nomination letter, UW-Green Bay staff member and Green Bay Restoration Project Coordinator Amy Carrozzino-Lyon wrote about Arneson’s initiative and leadership, and the ties to Leopold’s work:

“Jade has the initiative to take her graduate research and make it her own investigating the ecology and restoration of wild rice in Green Bay wetlands and incorporating a waterfowl use component to address her strong interest in the relationships between wildlife and habitat,” she wrote. “For example, last year she successfully pursued a student research grant to purchase trail cameras and equipment to study wildlife use at wild rice restoration sites. This effort provided hundreds of photos of wildlife, especially Canada geese and wood ducks, using these areas providing key support for the restoration effort. She has navigated the challenges and successes of graduate research with professionalism, sound problem solving skills, and a positive attitude… She has a unique ability to bridge the gap between the science and communication through effective conservation writing, photography, and art just as Leopold did, which I am certain will serve her well in her career in wildlife conservation.”

While Arneson has found her way to a similar journey in outdoor exploration, her now clear path, started a bit foggy. After spending two years at the UW-Green Bay, Manitowoc Campus to fulfill her general education requirements, she transferred to UW-Madison. Unsure of an intended major, she points back to a water quality internship at the Manitowoc Campus that had sparked an interest in environmental sciences. While scrolling through the broad catalog of potential majors, she stumbled across two words that would change her life: Wildlife Ecology.

“I was always outside as a kid,” said Arneson. “I would frequently walk the ‘back forty’ down to the creek, and we camped a lot as a family. I also worked on a farm, which furthered my love for animals.” At Madison, the Wildlife Ecology major led her to be active with The Wildlife Society (TWS) on campus. Arneson made lifetime connections and worked on important projects, such as one involving elk population reintroduction. She also participated in Learn to Hunt opportunities while at the university, which introduced her to hunting and its role in conservation, something she feels is incredibly important as a natural resource professional.

After graduating from UW-Madison and working in the field for three years, Arneson came to UW-Green Bay to pursue a graduate degree in Environmental Science and Policy. In her time at UW-Green Bay, Arneson led efforts through her graduate research on Wild Rice Restoration Project, serving as a member of the board of directors for the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society, and volunteering with the Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter (the first college chapter in the nation, started by UW-Green Bay students).

Her work as a graduate research assistant with the Wild Rice Restoration Project in the bay of Green Bay is a vital step in restoring original habitat for fish and birds. Past roles took her to the nation’s capital where she advocated for the  Forage Fish Conservation Act, supporting shorebirds and other waterbirds that depend on healthy forage fish populations.

Like any career path, there are challenges and rewarding ventures that define one’s journey. Through her experiences in the conservation field, Arneson believes that her biggest challenge is the unknown early in her career. “Jobs are usually temporary and demand geographic flexibility,” said Arneson. She has had jobs spanning anywhere from a few months to a year, so the periods of time in between work can be difficult. Despite that, Arneson is glad she is doing what she does. “I started with it and was persistent to chase after my passion!”

As for the most rewarding part of her work, Arneson points to two things. First, she enjoys the work involved with habitat restoration. “It takes time to see the results of restoration projects, so the reward isn’t immediate, but the work as a whole is satisfying” said Arneson. Second, she enjoys working with conservation partners who each bring their own strengths and resources.

Looking into the future, Arneson hopes to find a job that aligns with her skillsets and passions, while mirroring her conservation philosophy, one that is quite similar to Leopold’s.

“It’s a career goal of mine to work with private landowners that want to improve their land for the sake of wildlife. I also want to dedicate part of my career to recruiting new sportsmen and women and supporting the hunting community in their role as conservationists.”

Story by UW-Green Bay Marketing and University Communication intern Joshua Konecke

Photos submitted by Amy Carrozzino-Lyon