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Behind the Loon: Meet Megan Phillips

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There are so many reasons our Adirondack Council team is great, and we want to give you a chance to meet every one of them and their talents, quirks, and passions. We will be highlighting a member of our team each month. It’s so nice to meet you! 

Meet Megan Phillips

Megan Phillips

I’m a native Midwesterner. I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and went to college and grad school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My undergraduate degree is in Conservation Biology and my Master’s degree is in Water Resources Management. I’ve always had an affinity for water. I worked at the university’s Center for Limnology all through my undergraduate career, collecting water samples and analyzing them for a suite of parameters in the laboratory as a part of the Northern Temperate Lakes Long Term Ecological Research Project.

What’s your role at the Council? 

I’m the Vice President for Conservation at the Adirondack Council, where I am fortunate to lead our team of seven experienced conservationists to carry out our work. We focus on five key themes – rewilding, clean water, climate change, wilderness protection, and working lands (Essex Farm Institute). We work closely with the Government Relations team to advocate for funding, policies, and initiatives that protect the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondacks. We also believe it is important to get out in the field and experience firsthand some of the wild places and project sites that our work encompasses. Over the past summer, we biked to Boreas Ponds and paddled Forked Lake. Next month, we are visiting a local hydropower facility to learn more about the FERC relicensing process and how we can be engaged partners as projects come up for relicensing (a process that only happens once every ~50 years!).

It's 5:00 on a Friday and you're leaving the office. What are your plans for the weekend?  

After work, you can find me walking through the woods to catch the sun setting over a body of water. Getting outside in the Park is restorative and constantly reminds me of what we are working to protect. This past summer, I bought my first canoe, so many of my summer weekends were spent exploring new ponds, rivers, and lakes. I am looking forward to cross-country ski season and learning how to navigate our rolling terrain with more grace – being from the Midwest, I’m not used to the topography! I also love to try new recipes, write prose poetry, play board games and cards with friends, and sift through the racks at thrift shops looking for vintage styles.

What's one thing people don't know about the Adirondacks, but should? 

The Adirondacks are a global model for landscape-scale conservation, where protected wildlands and human communities can coexist in harmony. But some species that once called the Park home are severely diminished in numbers or extirpated altogether, such as the gray wolf. The loss of apex predator species has ripple effects throughout ecosystems. For example, wolves used to predate on deer and moose. (Since the extirpation of wolves from the Park, adult moose have no predators). Without this pressure from predators, browsers have a larger impact on forest regeneration and succession. Over-browsing of the forest understory also creates the opportunity for colonization of invasive plant species. Without apex predators, our Adirondack forests are not fully intact ecosystems.

Megan Phillips Carryying into Moose PondsCarrying into Moose Ponds

What is one issue that we are engaged in that means a lot to you? 

Our clean water work is of paramount importance to me. It is the lifeblood of our communities, many of which sprang up on the banks of Adirondack lakes and rivers. It is essential for local businesses, public health, our recreation economy, and residents of the Park -- both wild and human. Investment in clean water infrastructure, stringent and science-based road salt practices, and forward thinking land-use decisions are necessary to safeguard this resource that sustains us all.

Clean water drew me to the Adirondacks. This past summer I kept a list on the chalkboard of all of the rivers, lakes, and ponds that I swam in. By October, the list had 25 water bodies on it. I don’t take those experiences for granted. When I lived in the Midwest, I spent seven years in a city situated on a narrow isthmus between two lakes that were plagued by seemingly omnipresent toxic algae blooms in the summer months. Though I lived mere blocks from the water, I only swam a handful of times. Clean water equates to health. It equates to quality of life. I am proud that the Council considers it to be a top-tier priority.

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