Matt Griffis (MS ’10)
Acquisitions Program Officer, Wyss Foundation
What did it mean to you to be named a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow? What were some of the activities and opportunities that held the greatest impact for you?
It was an honor to be named a Doris Duke Fellow in recognition of my dedication to a career in land conservation. Attending a retreat with other Doris Duke Fellows from across the country shortly after being named a fellow was impactful, because it allowed me to network with other like-minded students and helped me further understand the breadth of the conservation field. The most memorable part of my fellowship, however, was an internship with the National Park Service at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where I spent the summer working with that park’s natural resources team.
Can you tell us about your SEAS experience? How did it help you advance in the conservation field?
The SEAS experience was exactly what I hoped for and needed at that point in my career. I was a couple years out of undergrad wanting to deepen my education numerous internships and seasonal jobs working in conservation. The SEAS program allowed me to focus on the issues I cared about most—land conservation in the West—while providing a well-rounded education and exposing me to opportunities in the nonprofit world. Networking with other SEAS students also led me to my current position as a program officer at the Wyss Foundation, where I manage the Foundation’s land acquisition and African wildlife conservation programs. I wouldn’t have my career without my time at SEAS.
What kind of changes have you observed in land conservation in the U.S. over the course of your career?
Over the course of my career, there has been a definite shift in opportunities for conservation. With each successful new public land protection (through national monument establishment, wilderness area expansion, and other designations), the political will to do more shrinks, but many worthy landscapes remain. Congress is broken, and it is getting harder to get meaningful conservation efforts traction. However, there are ever expanding opportunities for land acquisition (especially with the full and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund), conservation easements on large timber and ranch properties, restoration, and partnerships among public agencies, tribes, and nonprofits.
Note: Prior to 2017, the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) was known as the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). References to “SNRE” have been updated to “SEAS” to reflect the name change.