Guest Post: Jodi Stemler

Guest Post

A Life Among the Silver Backed Males

I work in a pretty male-dominated field. I remember 20 years ago when I was interning for a wildlife conservation organization, my supervisor described our colleagues as “silver backed males,” a fairly apt description for the typically gray-haired men leading most of the conservation movement at the time. At the first conferences I attended, I was often struck by how skewed the gender demographics were in traditional wildlife management.

Jodi Stemler

Jodi Stemler

I felt I had another strike against me as I was trying to shoulder my way in to the profession, because I grew up in the most densely populated state in the country. New Jersey – little bitty state, lots and lots (and lots) of people. In fact, I had to take a deep breath after someone at a conference would ask me where I grew up before answering: “I-grew-up-in-New-Jersey-but-I-grew-up-on-a-farm-and-hunted-and-fished-and-my-dad-is-a-wildlife-biologist.” It was always a bit of a mouthful but thankfully seemed to get us off on the right foot pretty quickly.

In fact, I did grow up on a beautiful farm smack dab in the middle of the state. My family farmed there since the early 1900’s (I have handwritten letters from my great uncle describing his trips into New York City to sell produce) and still farms there to this day, thanks to the aggressive farmland protection efforts of my hometown. From an early age, I would join my dad in his deer box (adjacent to our horse pasture) on opening day of buck season, hunker low when the geese and ducks flew from the wetland behind our house, and shoot at the gun club my grandfather and his friends founded. We fished in Great Bay in south Jersey and always surf cast for stripers during our annual trips to the Jersey Shore. There was never a question of whether or not I could go because I wasn’t a boy, we just always did it and I honestly never even thought any more about it.

I went through hunter education classes at an early age and somewhere at my parent’s house there’s the original certificate with my “signature” still in the childish hand of an 8-year-old. I remember my first goose hunts and rabbit hunts well. But my own hunting stopped shortly after I started – a misfire of a gun as I was unloading the shells – thankfully pointed safely but seemingly close in the direction of my uncle – and the squealing of a rabbit when I broke his back legs scared me off from the hunt for many years. I continued to go out with my dad and I continued to consider myself a hunter, and most importantly over the years I learned the core principles that hunting and traditional wildlife management are the bedrock of this nation’s conservation model.

Because of my upbringing, moving into a career to support conservation and wildlife management became a simple choice, even though there weren’t many women venturing into that career field. In my nearly 20 years in this profession now, I’ve worked for and with all of the top sportsmen’s and conservation groups in the country. I also continue to have the core philosophy that I learned as a child hunting and fishing with my dad – if we get the conservation right, we will always have wildlife and wild places for hunting, fishing or whatever it is we love to do in the great outdoors.

For me, it’s never been about being a woman in what’s perceived as a man’s career path nor is it about growing up an outdoorswoman in what’s perceived as an urban state. For me it’s about continuing the traditions, about protecting fish and wildlife and their habitats for our daughter and future grandchildren. It’s also increasingly been about procuring our own protein and knowing exactly where our food comes from, just like when I was a kid. My husband hunts waterfowl and big game, we typically have a full freezer, but it was my history, my roots and my convictions that led me back into the field with a gun a few years back. My return to hunting and passing those traditions on to our daughter is a story for a future blog, but I am forever grateful for being taken afield with my dad, even though I was a girl. And I am glad I was not scared away by the “silver backed males” and elbowed my way into a career that I love and to see the shift over the years to having more and more women engaged in conservation.

And hopefully, in my own little way, I’m making a difference.

As owner and President of Jodi Stemler Consulting, Jodi has nearly 20 years experience in the natural resource conservation field. Jodi worked for a state fish and wildlife agency as well as non-profit conservation organizations in Washington, D.C. and has a strong network of colleagues in the sportsmen and conservation community, as well as the outdoor industry. Jodi currently lives in Denver, Colorado.

 

11 comments to Guest Post: Jodi Stemler

  • Alison  says:

    Wonderful story. Thank you!

  • Eric Nale  says:

    Nice read Jodi.

  • Bruce E. Matthews  says:

    I am so very proud of you, Jodi Applegate Stemler. So proud! Nicely, no, exquisitely shared. Thank you.

    • Jodi Stemler  says:

      Thank you Alison, Eric and Bruce – what kind words!

  • Jay Gore  says:

    Well, I’m another one of those silver back males you talk about having retired in 2001 as a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service. Now 73, I’m doing a little writing. Some of you may have Labrador retrievers or just love dogs. I have written a book you may find interesting. You can goolge Barnes and Noble, Lulu.com or others and search for title “Is LIfe Worth LIving Without Labs?” by JAY. It is in paperback or e-reader versions. Enjoy. Jay Gore

  • J. T. Frazier  says:

    Jodi – your “good, clean, outdoor life” shows. Your timeframe in your article doesn’t match that picture!
    Congratulations on your 20 years!

  • Debra Wright  says:

    Enjoyed reading your story Jodi. Thank you for sharing!

  • Guest Post: Bridget Collins  says:

    […] confess I laughed out loud at part of Jodi Stemler’s recent post here, describing her rush to put her New Jersey upbringing in context for her wildlife […]

  • Guest Post: Rachel Dawson  says:

    […] I was raised to hunt and fish.  For more than 25 years, I’ve gone afield with my family and friends.  We’ve always maintained several freezers full of healthy, sustainably harvested meat and I’ve become adept at cooking fish and game.  Growing up in a very rural community on the Delmarva Peninsula, this wasn’t all that strange.  It wasn’t until I was older and venturing out of my pastoral comfort zone that I realized this was something out of the ordinary in the broader public eye.  Later, I pursued a career in wildlife conservation, and discovered that the gender and diversity gap runs pretty deep in this community, too.  Jodi Stemler hit the nail on the silver head. […]

  • Maddie Saylor  says:

    Very inspiring!!!!!

  • On Daughters… and Fishing  says:

    […] lives in Denver, Colorado. This is Jodi’s third guest post you can see her first post here and her second post […]

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