University of Guam student Kyle A. Dahilig is one of 20 students to be accepted into the 2021 cohort of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program through the University of California-Santa Cruz. The program is a selective multi-year undergraduate research experience designed for students with high potential to make sustained contributions as innovators and leaders in the field of environmental conservation and who will also increase diversity in the field.
Dahilig will join his class of 19 other scholars in an eight-week intensive field course from June to August this summer followed by an eight-week paid internship at a conservation organization or agency of his choice in Summer 2022.
‘Rooted in environmental activism’
Dahilig is majoring in integrative biology with a minor in tropical horticulture. He serves as president of the UOG Green Army student organization, as youth ambassador for the Guam Green Growth initiative, as communications director for the Guam Youth Climate Strike, and on the environmental committee of the Guam Youth Congress. Additionally, he authors a blog called The Color Earth about his environmental work.
“Being rooted in environmental activism and now studying the academics of conservation have proven to me that advocating for zero waste and participating in coastal cleanups is just the beginning—that we should be stewards through many ways for the environment,” he said.
An intensive two-year experience
The Doris Duke scholars will engage in sessions on leadership, team building, conflict management, cross-cultural communication, and visioning for the future. They will also get to tour five reserves across California—including Point Reyes National Seashore, the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab, and James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve—to explore issues in conservation and master the research leadership process.
In light of the ongoing pandemic, the program is planning pre-travel and arrival safety measures for the scholars and the field course will be carried out in an isolated “bubble.”
The summer experience will allow opportunities for the scholars to interact with diverse conservation leaders, scientists, communicators, and entrepreneurs. They will also have lifelong mentorship and support within the program and the alumni network of UCSC.
“… Knowing that conservation isn’t quick and easy,” Dahilig said, “finding mentors and a program that go beyond one summer is the best fit for me.”
For his internship next summer, Dahilig said he is interested in teaming with the Natural Resources Defense Council or The Wildlife Conservation Society.
“Kyle is a careful thinker and has all the characteristics that will allow him to succeed in any area he chooses,” said Daniel Lindstrom, Dahilig’s biology professor and advisor. “I am certain he will absorb all the Doris Duke program has to offer and put it to good use this summer as well as in his promising academic career in the future.”
Eventually, Dahilig said he can see himself caring for a botanical garden and working on local flora conservation and outreach projects.
“I want to help in every way I can to mitigate biodiversity destruction in the region and empower communities to adapt to the changing world,” he said. “I look forward to mobilizing the community through environmental education and promoting citizen science.”
Dahilig is the fourth UOG student to be accepted in the program, following Annette Ludwig, who was accepted into UCSC’s first cohort in 2016, Serena Barasi in 2019, Michael A. Fernandez in 2020. (UOG)