Audrey Russin hopes to get a job that ties in with her love of birds after she becomes the first recipient of the Master of Professional Studies in Ecosystem Management and Administration.
Russin, 34, is from York County, Pennsylvania, and graduated in 2011 from Penn State, where she played alto saxophone in the Blue Band and majored in agricultural science. She originally wanted to be a veterinarian, but an internship with Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, a Delaware nonprofit focused on bird rehabilitation, made her more interested in wildlife conservation.
“I wanted to make a difference on the conservation end,” Russin said.
The ecosystem management program opened in 2019 and is offered online by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences through Penn State World Campus.
It is aimed at people already in an environmental management field who are looking to move into higher-level management positions. The program includes courses in leadership and communication and technical and administrative skills, and a hands-on capstone project.
Technical courses in the program explore geographic information systems (GIS), monitoring skills, and data analysis. Managers are increasingly expected to use data and analysis to back up their decisions, as well as have skills such as the ability to work with GIS.
“I'm really pleased to see our program graduate our first master of professional studies student,” said Marc McDill, associate professor of forest management and lead faculty for the program. “Audrey's project on the recovery of the osprey in Pennsylvania was a great learning experience for her and was also very useful to her project partner, the Pennsylvania Game Commission. I'm very proud of Audrey and wish her the best as she pursues her career in ecosystem management.”
For Russin's capstone project, she combed through decades’ worth of data on the state’s osprey population to document the bird’s rebound in the state. In the 1980s, there were fewer than 15 nesting pairs of ospreys in the state, and as of 2020, there were 134 pairs, and the birds have been removed from the endangered and threatened lists.
“I’ve learned so much,” Russin said. “I’m putting everything I’m learning in my classes to work in my paper.”
Russin said she picked World Campus for her graduate work because of the ecosystem management program and Penn State’s reputation and that she was not disappointed.
“I enjoyed all of them,” she said of her classes. The professors were “all fantastic.”
Post-graduation, Russin will write up her osprey work for a report to the game commission and a research journal, as well as try to find a job.