As a student on the Johnson campus, Steven Lamonde was known as a “bird nerd” for the hobby that has steered his career direction. He spent hours at the Babcock Nature Preserve, the Lower Pond, and elsewhere on and off campus watching red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, and other species.
Birding and Geographic Information System (GIS) data management were passions Steven discovered and developed when he majored in environmental science, and his planned career in bird conservation will combine those interests. Steven, who earned a master’s degree in environmental studies in 2019 from Antioch University New England, plans to pursue a doctoral degree in the field and then do research and teach.
Prepared for Graduate School
Steven’s most valuable experience was learning GIS mapping software. As a teaching assistant for GIS courses, he did GIS-focused independent studies with a professor and was a research assistant for three summers using the mapping system. “That gave me a whole leg up over many other people in my field,” he said. “A lot of my current success is purely based on the GIS experience I got.”
In his research, Steven created a computer model to evaluate how bobcats use Vermont’s natural environment as a habitat, so biologists could prioritize sections of land to preserve for them. As part of his research, Steven also developed materials to train GIS users on how to use parts of the software. He created online tutorials and data sets “that people around the world are using now, which is really cool,” he said.
With a conservation biology concentration at Antioch, Steven used the GIS skills he learned in his role as an adjunct faculty member teaching graduate-level GIS courses. Becoming an adjunct in his last semester at Antioch is one of his biggest accomplishments so far.
Small Classes and Faculty Connections Helped Him Succeed
Besides excelling with GIS mapping, Steven gained other skills in the biology program that helped him in graduate school and prepared him for his career: making effective PowerPoint and poster presentations, using Excel, developing grant proposals, and learning to write for the science field.
“I stepped right into graduate school knowing how to do good work, write well, do complicated math. All of those skills I built really prepared me for graduate school,” he said. “I succeeded at Antioch because of what I learned at Johnson by taking advantage of opportunities that were there for me.”
For Steven, the small classes and one-on-one connections he made with faculty were valuable parts of his education — and the manageable campus size. “I didn’t have to walk half an hour to any of my classes. They were just right there,” he said.
Captaining the men’s varsity cross-country team was a highlight, too, and helped him learn leadership, communication, and time-management skills.
He Started Working to Save Birds
As he explored birding, Steven developed a network of birders and environmentalists who were important connections for his Antioch research and his fieldwork for an ecological consulting company and conservation organizations.
“The combination of birds and GIS is my niche,” Steven said. “It feels good to be working to save a species, trying to prevent something from going extinct or losing more habitat … and working with people to help them understand why it’s important to save this aspect of nature. Everybody can connect with birds.”