Background and Education KYLLE ROY was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, and is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools at Kapālama. She continued her studies at Chapman University in Orange, California where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences and a Minor in Environmental Sciences. While conducting independent research as an undergraduate at Chapman University, Kylle became interested in conservation and started thinking about a career in conservation. While attending Chapman, she studied abroad at James Cook University in Australia. James Cook University had an exchange program with the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and they specialized in conservation research programs. Kylle was able to take a lot of conservation classes and started to really get into it. Because of the exchange program, many UH Hilo students were studying in Australia, which made Kylle think, “Wow, maybe I can go home and continue my education, but experience life in Hilo”. This led her to her graduate program on Hawaiʻi Island and the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Program (TCBES) where she received her Master’s Degree. Kylle is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Purdue University in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources studying the chemical ecology of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death. She plans on graduating in Fall 2023. Kylle currently works as an Entomologist for Hawaiʻi and the US Affiliated Pacific Islands, USDA Forest Service in the Forest Health Protection Branch.
Any programs that were helpful along the way?
What helped Kylle the most along the way was taking little conservation jobs here and there. She worked at the Forest Service for two months harvesting different native and invasive plants that were in a greenhouse. She also taught at Waiākea Intermediate School in an after-school science class to see if she liked teaching. During her Master’s study, there were lots of opportunities for her to learn new skills. Kylle did research in the UH Analytical Lab, the UH Core Genomics Facility, and worked with people at USDA ARS who helped her analyze her data. All of the opportunities are still affecting her today. She works at the Forest Service and still collaborates with people from ARS, and if she ever needed things from the Analytical Lab she feels she can just reach out to them. Taking advantage of the many different opportunities that were available and getting actual work experience helped her figure out what she wanted to do and build relationships with people, really building a community.
Coming Full Circle
Kylle was encouraged by her Master’s advisor to work with a group of well-known Entomologists to conduct research that looked at arthropod biodiversity across the Hawaiian Islands. It was during this project that Kylle realized that through this work she could access and experience such beautiful, unique places in the islands that she would not have otherwise been able to access, such as the Wao Akua. As a daughter of Hawaiʻi, she unfortunately had never been able to access these places before, but if she continued in this line of study she knew she could continue to do good work in these spaces. She recalled thinking how many of the other scientists may not understand how special it was for them to be there. After ten years of being in the field, Kylle is now in a position to create teams of researchers that are not only driven by nature conservation but also hold an understanding of the complex cultural dynamics of Hawaiʻi and the importance of place-based knowledge.
Hopes for the Future
Kylle has made many great connections with numerous peers in her field since she began her journey in conservation. Through her schooling, work experiences, research, and conferences she has attended, these relationships have helped her get to where she is today. In 2019, Kylle was invited to give a presentation at a Society for Advancement of Chicanos/ Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Conference that was held here in Hawaiʻi. Here she was able to expand her community of Native Hawaiians in STEM, an important element that was previously missing from her life. When looking back, Kylle mentioned that although she had mentors that helped her along the way, she lacked mentors that looked like her: Native Hawaiian and female. Looking toward the future, there is hope and encouragement that more Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander females will emerge in the field of environmental conservation gaining access to the sacred spaces to improve and sustain the ecosystems so special to Hawaiʻi. Today, even though she barely acknowledges it herself, Kylle is a mentor to those starting their careers in environmental conservation, filling the gaps that she experienced while growing in her profession.
Background and Education TIM KROESSIG grew up on the southeast side of Oʻahu. He graduated from Kaiser High School and enrolled at Kapiʻolani Community College to study Culinary Arts. A firm believer that college should be enjoyable and fun, Tim explored different avenues of study which lead him to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences. He went on to earn his Master’s Degree in 2018 and is currently the Horticulture Manager at Harold L. Lyon Arboretum.
Finding out about the Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation Fellowship
In 2008, while still studying at KCC, Tim became a student-hire at Lyon Arboretum. It was there that a fellow employee recommended he apply for the Botany Graduate Fellowship offered through Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation. At the time, Tim was looking at several campuses on the West Coast along with UH Manoa to pursue his graduate degree. After being awarded the Botany Fellowship, Tim was able to continue his educational career here in Hawaiʻi where he was able to conduct research, perform fieldwork, and travel to environmental conferences with the support of the Foundation.
As a student-hire in Lyon’s Seed Conservation Lab, Tim was introduced to the larger conservation community. He was able to take what he learned in school and make real-world applications. He also served as a member of the Society of Conservation. As the current Manager of Horticulture at Lyon, Tim continues his applied research on Native Hawaiian plants. He continues to enjoy working with plants, getting his hands in the soil, and studying and implementing methods for continued growth, propagation, and protection of Native Hawaiian plants.
Advice for future conservationists
When asked if he had any advice for up-and-coming youth interested in the field of conservation Tim was a source of inspiration. He emphasized the importance of taking foundation-level courses and electives in environmental studies, all of which can be done at the Community College level. Participating in internship programs, such as the ones offered by KUPU, are amazing opportunities to create relationships with others in the field of environmental conservation and to see the different career pathways. He also voiced the importance of gaining experience before jumping into a career. Working in conservation is a career of the heart, one in which you must love the work. Those looking for a career in conservation must have a realistic perspective and although professionals in the conservation field should be earning top dollar, in reality, one must expect to make sacrifices, especially living here in Hawaiʻi. The real reward of working in environmental conservation in Hawaiʻi is the dedicated people that you get to work alongside, as well as the experiences that you gain.
Background and Education STACIE TORIGOE was born on Hawaiʻi Island and grew up in Hilo. After graduating from high school she attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, studying English and Biology with a focus on Ecology. As a Major in Biology, Stacie studied abroad in New Zealand. While taking a field ecology course she discovered that she could do science outside and not just in a lab. She returned to Hawaiʻi and earned her Master of Science Degree from the Natural Resources and Environmental Management (NREM) Program. She started her career at Haleakalā National Park doing resource management and vegetation management doing a lot of invasive plant work and also restoration. Stacie is currently the Ecologist for Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. She works as a program manager focusing on invasive species.
The Impact of the Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation Fellowship
Stacie learned of the Fellowship opportunity from a flyer that was posted on the Maui Weed Forum at Haleakalā National Park. A professor, and fellow Ecologist, encouraged her to apply for the Graduate Assistantship. At the time, even though she was already doing work that she loved, the Fellowship would be a way for her to be able to go back to school. Stacie was awarded the Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation Fellowship with NREM and was able to continue studying and doing research focused on the field that she loved, all the while not having to worry about the stress of having a second job. During her fellowship, Stacie was still able to volunteer with the Botanical Society and Lyon Arboretum. She had the freedom to sign up for workshops and conferences. She was able to take her time and bounce ideas off like-minded peers and have conversations with people she had never talked to before. Stacie made lasting relationships with people who had a similar passion for environmental conservation.
Important things future conservationists should know
Stacie has been very driven throughout her educational journey and her career in environmental conservation. The road has not always been smooth, but she was able to persevere and continues to push herself to be a positive impact on the environment. She had some very important pearls of wisdom for up-and-coming environmental conservation professionals, or anyone starting in a new field:
Don’t be afraid to try new things or stretch yourself. The only way you grow is by doing things you’ve never done before—leading, learning new skills, pushing yourself physically/mentally. Imposter syndrome is real, just bring your best self, acknowledge it, and be confident that you belong.
Advocate for yourself. Write down goals for the next 6 months, year, 5 years, 10 years. Share them with your mentors and supervisors so that they can help you reach them.
You will get out of anything what you put in, whether that’s your degree program, training, or fieldwork. Put in the extra mile, ask the burning questions, and meet new people that you wouldn’t normally talk to. You never know who your next boss/coworker/contact is going to be.
Education is important, but experience in the field is worth far more than classwork on your resume and careerwise. As a hiring manager, I look for folks who have experience doing fieldwork, working well with others, leadership skills, and going above and beyond to get the job done, not just transcripts. You’re always interviewing for your next job, be your best self wherever you are, with family, at work, at trainings and conferences, even at pau hana.
It's okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. Know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses—but know that everyone has blind spots, and you will find that the most unexpected people can help you figure those out. Take everything as a learning opportunity.
Finally, a word about work/life balance: in the end, no one regrets that they should have worked more, but plenty of people regret not spending time with their loved ones. The work we do is super important, but we can’t show up to do it if we’re not taking care of ourselves and our ‘ohana.