When the right circumstances come together, the Endangered Species Act can make a difference in the conservation of a species that is in trouble.
Bridget Fahey '93, director of the Division of Classification & Conservation at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, was passionate about wildlife conservation from an early age, so when she came to Bucknell, majoring in biology was an easy choice. Fahey was less than exhilarated, however, by her introductory courses in the major, which focused on the microscopic, cellular building blocks of biology. It wasn't until her junior year, when she began taking big-picture courses in ecology and evolution with Professor Warren Abrahamson, that Fahey knew she’d made the right decision. "I was like, 'Oh yeah, this is why I wanted to be a biology major!'" Fahey recalls.
That confidence grew when Fahey took advantage of Bucknell's study abroad offerings, spending a life-changing semester in Kenya with the School for Field Studies. "I went from an insular life in northeastern and central Pennsylvania all the way to Africa with giraffes and wildebeests and all that exciting, big African wildlife," Fahey says. "That really solidified that this was going to be my career path."
For Bucknell students today struggling to pass exams in prerequisite biology classes, Fahey is living proof that those study sessions really do pay off and not just for future physicians. Having risen through the ranks of Fish & Wildlife conservation field work, Fahey is now at the agency's Washington, D.C., office, overseeing the federal endangered species list. "I'm very proud of the work that the Fish & Wildlife Service has been doing to improve our Endangered Species Act listing process," Fahey says. "I came here to be a part of that larger effort."
Though this can, at times, mean that she has a front-row seat to the 21st-century tragedy of species loss, Fahey has also been a key player in some successful efforts to restore species populations to the point where they are de-listed. For example, she played an important role in the delisting of the Channel Island fox, a species that, 15 years earlier, had been on the brink of extinction.
"It's really gratifying to see that, when the right circumstances come together, the Endangered Species Act can make a difference in the conservation of a species that is in trouble," Fahey says.