Getting to Know: Hannah Shapiro

November 6, 2015

Hello TLC friends,

My name is Hannah Shapiro and I am the new communications and social media intern at Triangle Land Conservancy. You may have seen my first blog post last week about TLC’s Temple Flat Rock Preserve; I enjoyed learning about this unique formation from Leigh Ann Hammerbacher.

For this post, I wanted to tell you a little about myself. Originally from Chicago, I moved to Durham in August to begin my master’s degree in environmental management at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. This semester, I am taking courses in community-based environmental management, statistics, law and policy, and GIS. I know this two year program is going to go by quickly, so I am spending my time here trying to gain many experiences and skills to use in my upcoming real-world job. As much as I’m enjoying Durham, I’m hoping to work for a conservation nonprofit organization in Chicago when I graduate.

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Exploring Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.

As an intern at TLC, it might be a little surprising to learn that my undergraduate degree is in marine science. When I was 13, I convinced my dad take a scuba diving course with me and have been fascinated by the vast marine world ever since. Naturally, I wanted to study the oceans and spent four years at Eckerd College on Florida’s Gulf Coast, mostly taking marine science courses along with a handful of environmental studies courses.

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Hummingbird in the cloud forest of Ecuador.

There have been a few experiences in my life, both academic and personal, that sparked my interest in conservation and environmental communication. After graduating from college, I was an intern at the Field Museum in Chicago where I was a climate science writer for the Chicago Wilderness Alliance. In this position, I learned about the many threats to biodiversity in the Chicago region as well as some of the conservation efforts throughout the city.

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Elephants enjoying the mud in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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Mountainside rice paddies in Sapa, Vietnam.

This past summer, I spent a few months traveling through Southeast Asia before starting at Duke. Traveling alone to the other side of the world is intense; after lots of research and planning, I had to trust myself to accomplish the journey. As I traveled through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, I visited over 30 major cities, small towns, tiny remote villages, and little islands, only staying a few nights at each place. This meant I spent many, many hours sitting on a bus or train, catching a second’s glimpse at a seemingly infinite amount of different people, their homes and children, their work and meals, their lives and culture.

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Floating village, Halong Bay, Vietnam.

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Monkey protecting her baby, Xe Champhone, Laos.

As kids, we’re taught that the world is a big place. But it’s not until you experience life on the other side of the world that you realize the real vastness of it all, the enormity of 7 billion people, and the unbelievable immensity of the nearly 200 countries on earth. Needless to say, when I arrived back in Chicago after my journey, I was pretty overwhelmed. I began doubting that any work I may accomplish in conservation in my lifetime would make the slightest positive impact in the grandness of it all. But as these months have passed, I’m beginning to regain the confidence and passion for the work I want to achieve. I want to educate others on the importance of conservation, through direct interaction and on-the-ground projects, and also through my writing. Collectively, we can make a difference when each individual on this earth works to conserve our vast and beautiful natural environments.

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My wonderful Hmong guides in Sapa, Vietnam.

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