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Where Are They Now? Alumni Highlight: Claire Patton

group of members in matching hoodies

Claire is a Masters student at the University of Nebraska studying Community and Regional Planning. Before that though, Claire served on a Field Crew in 2018 around the Loess Hills of Iowa.


What kind of work did you do when you were in the Corps?

Prairie restoration was the majority of our jobs, which included Red Cedar removal from remnant prairie patches, controlled burns of prairie grassland, and invasive species control through manual removal and herbicide application.

group holding chainsaws standing by piles of brush

Were there any particularly memorable or challenging experiences during your time in the Corps?

Some of the most memorable challenges I faced during my year was working in the humid heat of the prairie or working on a part of a hill that did not receive any wind, so it would get extremely hot while running a saw. Those were the times I really found out what I was made of, because rather than giving up and finding a cool shady area to rest, I would set goals for myself and push myself to meet them.

What was the most personally meaningful part of your experience with Conservation Corps?

Realizing I helped contribute to the maintenance and restoration of remnant prairie, something that, once gone, we cannot get back. Learning the hard work that goes into really ‘fixing’ past mistakes was an eye opener.

How did the experience shape your career/life?

This experience pushed me. It showed me I can be strong and gave me experience leading. It has made me want to pursue a more project management focused career path as meeting goals and completing jobs was very rewarding.

selfie on a trail

What advice would you offer to a current member serving in Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa?

Get to know the people you are working with, both CCMI and others. While I was only in a crew of 3 (including myself) it was a fun time and we helped push each other at times to keep us going. I wish I had gotten to know some of the Iowa DNR people better as I thought they were pretty cool but, kinda scary since they knew so much more than me.

What did you do immediately after your time in the Corps?

Immediately after, I worked at the Omaha Zoo for about 6 months and considered going into education. However ultimately I received a job as an Environmental Analyst and moved to Denver for two years before returning to Nebraska in late 2021.

Where are you now?

I am currently pursuing my Masters of Community and Regional Planning at University of Nebraska – Lincoln. I am employed as an Environmental Analyst with a government contracting firm as well as an intern for a Hazard Mitigation Planning team.

selfie holding a textbook

What do you do there?

As an Environmental Analyst I work on contracts such as risk assessments and environmental site assessments. As an intern, I work on helping develop Hazard Mitigation Plans for various jurisdictions in Nebraska. In school I am studying city and regional planning, which includes topics such as environmental planning, transportation planning, and zoning.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

In one of the pictures shown, myself and my fellow Loess Hills crew leader, Inga, show off how powerful taking out cedars made us feel. There is a strange pride in looking back and seeing acres of land suddenly opened up after a week of straight cutting trees down.

flexing muscles holding chainsaws


Thank you for sharing your story Claire!

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