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Margaret Williams ’81

MWbearAug09

The 2012 recipient of the Laverack Award is Margaret Williams ‘81. Margaret’s admirable work and dedication to the field of environmental science is an inspiration to all. She is now the Managing Director of the Arctic Field Program for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Her areas of expertise are Russian protected areas, Arctic marine wildlife conservation and policy. Before joining WWF, where she first established the Bering Sea eco-region program, she lived in Russia. Thanks to a three-year fellowship, she collaborated with Russian non-profit and governmental organizations to build public support for the country’s unique system of wilderness areas. She also enjoyed a short stint working for the World Bank in the Republic of Macedonia and in Central Asia on biodiversity projects. After graduating from Applewild, Margaret studied at Middlesex School. She studied Russian language at Middlebury College and received her BA in American Studies from Smith College and her MS in Environmental Studies from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

From WWF’s web-profile of Margaret, we learned that, “Working in the Bering Sea region isn’t for the weak of heart. The temperatures are often frigid, the landscape is vast and there is no easy way to get there. And, if you’re like Margaret and you have actually been stranded in Siberia, you also need a good bit of patience. Fortunately for WWF, it is her dream job. She even gets to live in Alaska.

“Encompassing both the marine environment of the Bering Sea and the terrestrial landscape of Russia’s Kamchatka province, Margaret’s region is filled with environmental challenges. Heavy shipping traffic, offshore oil drilling, wildlife poaching, human-animal conflict and overfishing all imperil the region’s sensitive ecosystem. And global warming – the cause of shrinking sea ice, rising temperatures in salmon rivers and many other ecosystem changes – is an overarching concern.

“As problem-plagued as the region may be, Margaret is optimistic for its future. She is helping to organize polar bear patrols to minimize human-wildlife conflict – stimulated in large part by global warming – and working to create a series of protected areas along the coast to reduce disturbance of the bears and their denning sites.”

As an international organization, World Wildlife Fund works across the entire Arctic. Margaret enjoys representing WWF US in this region. She states, “Few Americans think of the United States as an Arctic nation, but indeed, we have a tremendous coastline, rich resources, and diverse cultures in the US Arctic. Climate change and industrial pressures are posing huge challenges here today. The problems are many but so are the opportunities. As a conservationist, it’s just an exciting place to work.”

To the Applewild community – and to all interested parties – she offers this final note: “Every American should visit Alaska…but not all at the same time.”

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