Nature draws alumna to the Northwest

| March 14, 2014

Every year, Sarah Doyle ’09 plants thousands of trees along creeks and rivers to provide better habitat for fish and wildlife.

Since graduating in 2009, Sarah Doyle has been busy saving the environment, one tree — or salmon — at a time.

As stewardship coordinator for the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Doyle spends most of her days in the streams, fields and forests of the Olympic Peninsula, a wild, picturesque area west of Seattle.

But her job also requires some paperwork. Among her many duties are grant writing, developing and implementing small landowner restoration projects, coordinating a Washington Conservation Corps Crew — an Americorps jobs program for 18- to 25-year-olds — as well as monitoring the coalition’s completed restoration projects.

One of them, the Morse Creek Restoration Project in Port Angeles, Wash., rerouted a creek to its original alignment and helped improve the stream’s natural habitat, including increasing the local salmon population by 500 percent. It was the second-largest in-stream restoration project on the Olympic Peninsula.

In 2013, the company’s grant-writing team received more than $13 million in funding to implement similar small- and large-scale projects in the area.

Doyle conducts monitoring on Morse Creek, where a 2010 restoration project reclaimed salmon habitat.

But success doesn’t always come in dollars.

“Since working at NOSC, I have coordinated the planting of over thirty thousand trees on forty acres of riparian habitat,” Doyle says, citing one of her proudest achievements.

For the Baltimore native, making the leap across the country wasn’t so daunting after visiting her brother in Washington her senior year.

“[He] was living as a wooden boat builder in a small Victorian seaport called Port Townsend, about two hours north of Seattle,” says Doyle, who now lives in the same town.

“I fell in love with the place and the ability for me to spend a day kayaking around the Puget Sound looking at killer whales and seals, and the next day hiking the Olympic Mountains observing marmots and black bears.”

Since moving to the Northwest, Doyle has hiked about 200 miles each summer and practices yoga, horseback riding and stand-up paddle boarding, in addition to snowshoeing in the winter.

“I’ve had quite a few Sweet Briar friends come out to visit, and we have had lots of fun [on] camping and hiking adventures,” she says.

Attending Sweet Briar, she says, made her realize that she “couldn’t live anywhere that didn’t have beautiful natural surroundings.”

Doyle took advantage of everything else Sweet Briar had to offer, too. She majored in environmental studies with a concentration in environmental policy and a minor in biology. She was part of the Environmental Club, Amnesty International and Young Democrats. She also was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and completed a Senior Honors Thesis, in addition to studying abroad at the University of Cape Town the spring of her junior year.

After graduating in 2009, Doyle landed an Americorps internship with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition. One year later, she was hired full time.

“Sweet Briar gave me so many skills that have led me to where I am today,” Doyle says. “My area of expertise at NOSC is in Geographic Information Systems. I am often developing maps of our restoration projects to provide to grant funders and to use in my monitoring reports. I learned this skill in Dr. [Rebecca] Ambers’ class at Sweet Briar.”

Doyle holds a female coho salmon as part of a monitoring program that counts the salmon returning to each river.

She is also grateful to economics and environmental studies professor Rob Alexander, who made sure she honed her oral presentation skills.

“I am often traveling around the state presenting to folks about our restoration projects. I was always a nervous public speaker, but the practice at Sweet Briar helped me to refine this skill.”

Collaborating with her professors on a daily basis and being able to talk to them about anything made a big impact on Doyle. “The teachers are always willing to work with you if you need help, and they are also willing to sit with you just to chat about a topic that inspires you.”

“They were always able to keep me engaged in the classroom. … Having small classes allowed [for] thought-provoking discussions that furthered my desire to learn more and increased my passion for restoring the environment.”

Above all, Doyle says, her professors gave her the confidence to go after her dreams.

“The most important thing Sweet Briar did for me was to empower me to realize that I can achieve anything with hard work, dedication and passion.”

Janika Carey

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Category: Alumnae and Development, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies