Advocating for our Coasts from Antarctica to the Gulf: Introducing Ally Kristan
Our Staff Spotlights blog series is dedicated to highlighting our talented team members who are helping advance restoration efforts for coastal Louisiana.
This week we are spotlighting Ally Kristan, wildlife policy specialist for the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf team. Ally joined the Restore the Mississippi River Delta (MRD) family following a Knauss Marine Policy fellowship focused on Antarctic environmental protection, and so much more! We caught up with Ally to learn more about her time with the MRD and her world outside of the office.
1.) Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, and what is your background?
I was born and raised in the city of Raleigh, North Carolina. Despite living in an urban area, my father always nurtured my love of the outdoors; we made games of flipping over rocks to watch the crawling bugs underneath. My family took trips to the coast every year, and I remember being about 8 years old and standing on the Carolina shore, telling my parents “the ocean feels like home.” I studied marine biology at UNC Wilmington and interned at a wonderful sea turtle rehabilitation facility, then spent a couple years as a naturalist on a boat in Hawaii (along with several other odd jobs). That time in Hawaii deepened my awareness of the negative impacts that human activity has on our coast, which led me to move Gulf-side to pursue an MS in oceanography and coastal sciences at Louisiana State University while researching human and climate impacts on Antarctic wildlife. After that, I had the pleasure of working for Audubon Florida’s Shorebird Stewardship program in the Tampa Bay region, then moved up to D.C. for a yearlong Knauss Marine Policy fellowship on the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Environment team.
2.) What is your role WITHIN NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION AND RESTORE THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA, and what made you interested in pursuing it?
I’m a wildlife policy specialist for NWF’s Gulf team. In this role, I can use my scientific background to advocate for effective, scientifically sound policy measures that will protect and restore the Gulf Coast. Antarctica holds a very special place in my heart, but the storm surges and gnarly Red Tide I experienced while living on the Gulf left an indelible mark. I’m thrilled to be working with National Wildlife Federation to help make a tangible impact for the unique wildlife and people of this vulnerable region.
3.) What about working in the coastal space intrigued you?
For me, it’s always been all about the animals. It’s easy to enjoy the coast, lying in the sun and listening to the triumphant symphony of seabirds while the dorsal fins of dolphins spot the horizon. With enough time you’ll catch a peek of a tiny shorebird chick darting along the dunes or a sea turtle laying her nest. It’s easy to feel like it’ll never change.
It is changing, though — rapidly. Once you realize the threats facing coastal species and the suffering that coastal wildlife and humans alike already endure, simply ignoring it is no longer an option. There is always opportunity to make a difference.
4.) What does Louisiana’s coast mean to you?
Louisiana’s coast is a fascinating place rich with charm, character and pride. It’s a place where adversity has hit time and time again, but the residents always stand back up. It’s a place of tremendous hope and opportunity to do things right.
6.) What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing coastal issues?
There will always be people who attempt to dissuade you from following a career you are passionate about. They may tell you that you’ll struggle to pass classes and find jobs. Do not listen to the cynics. Our planet (and all the animals!) so desperately needs your help, and you have the power to make the world a better place in this crucial era of rapid change. In times when it’s difficult to tune out the negative, I recommend reading Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote.
7.) Describe yourself in one word.
Stay tuned for more Staff Spotlights and learn more about our coalition by checking out our website for more about what issues America’s delta is facing, and how we are addressing them.