By Lindsay Key

Like many prospective graduate students, Lindsay Kuczera was apprehensive about finding a natural resources program that would be a good fit for someone with a humanities-based undergraduate degree. Kuczera graduated from Towson University in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication.

From 2012 to 2020, she had been working as Digital Marketing Manager for National Geographic. But while promoting the organization’s education and conservation-based expeditions, she got the itch to learn the science behind conservation herself. In 2020, she decided to take the plunge and pursue Virginia Tech’s Online Master of Natural Resources (OMNR) program, and hasn’t regretted it one bit. Not only has the coursework been accessible and applicable for a person with a humanities background, it has propelled her career forward into new territory.

Sustainability at the national corporate level
In November 2020, Kuczera became the Sustainability Marketing Manager for The Climate Pledge, a cross-sector community of companies, organizations, individuals, and partners working together to crack the climate crisis and solve the challenges of decarbonizing the economy. The Climate Pledge was jointly formed in 2019 by Amazon and Global Optimism, and its mission is to onboard businesses all across the private sector to pledge to become carbon neutral by 2040.

“Essentially, it aims to accomplish the Paris Agreement targets ten years early,” said Lindsay. As the Sustainability Marketing Manager, she manages the organization’s social media platforms, using short-form storytelling to appeal to the businesses The Climate Pledge hopes to attract. Although working in the B2B marketing role is new, “It’s allowed me to tap into a new perspective, identify the advantages of decarbonizing business, and tell a story that engages climate action and encourages global companies to join.”

The Climate Pledge logo

The classes she’s taken so far in the OMNR program have provided essential knowledge and training for her new position, according to Kuczera. “It gave me way more confidence to pursue something in the sustainability field,” she explained. “The focus on writing in the program has really kickstarted my creative thinking in the field, too, and now it’s much easier for me to write more sustainably-focused communications.”

Sustainability at the local level
Lindsay’s position with The Climate Pledge is part-time, which has allowed her to focus more heavily on school and also to get involved with sustainability at the local level. Last summer, while enrolled in Conservation Ecology with Dr. Desiree Di Mauro, she completed a citizen science project with Anacostia Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization near her home in Washington, D.C. For the project, Kuczera volunteered as a water quality monitor. Since then, she’s stayed in touch with the staff, and plans to help the organization develop their communications on a contract basis.

Anacostia Riverkeeper logo

Dr. Megan Draheim developed the citizen science assignment as part of her original design for the Conservation Ecology course, which is a long-standing component of the OMNR curriculum.

“Some students like to choose a project so that they can learn about their local environment, while others choose to work with a species that is of particular interest,” explained Di Mauro. “Either way, this experiential type of learning really allows students to explore how conservation research is conducted. From the perspective of a researcher, I'm a big fan of citizen science, because I used data from over 75 citizen science volunteers when conducting my dissertation research on local pollinators—I really appreciated their enthusiasm, hard work, and accurate data!”

Lindsay Kuczera headshot
Online MNR student Lindsay Kuczera

“The citizen science project was a cool opportunity to get to know the organization, to go out into the watershed and take quality samples, and to forge those relationships that are so important when moving into the sustainability field,” said Kuczera. “Plus, there’s this interesting duality in my career right now, where I’m working for a large corporation focused on climate action in the private sector while also engaging with a small, local nonprofit focused on water conservation, which is a topic I’ve been hoping to get more involved in.”