Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Sunday, May 3, 2015

Johnson expands science background to include public affairs

Garrett Johnson Garrett Johnson
johnson garrett owl

Garrett Johnson in the field with a California Spotted Owl.

Garrett Johnson is looking for a few more hunters.

The first-year public affairs student holds a project assistantship with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, working on a project involving public education and recruitment for hunting.

"Hunting is one of Wisconsin's primary forms of revenue for natural resource conservation, and the declining hunter population is limiting the ability to address environmental issues," Johnson says. "My project is to create relationships between landowners and new hunters to form hunting/land management co-ops. This project will continue through the summer and is providing me with a huge network to find new opportunities."

Those opportunities coincide with Johnson's career goals, to work on environmental and conservation issues with the public. "I want to apply my scientific background to political processes and influence the policy decisions," he says. "I'm also extremely interested in public education."

Johnson graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in evolutionary biology and a certificate in environmental studies. While an undergraduate, he worked for three biology labs, spent a month on a fossil expedition in Wyoming, where he discovered a dinosaur.

In the summer of 2014, he worked in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as a field technician and researcher for the university. "We studied the California Spotted Owl and were tasked with updating territory maps, capturing and banding new individuals, and determining where nests were located," Johnson says. "To find owls, we had to imitate their calls. They had a few that we typically used, including the four-note call, the contact call and the crow bark."

Through the La Follette School's Master of Public Affairs degree program, Johnson is focusing on non-profit management, natural resource conservation, and public outreach and education. "I hope to get a job at a non-profit or a government agency advocating for conservation and educating the public," he says.

"La Follette's small classes are extremely beneficial," he adds. "It allows me to build relationships with professors that were not possible in my massive undergraduate lectures. I can regularly meet with professors, improve my network, and get career advice. I would recommend La Follette to a prospective student because of the unique blend of specialization through electives, great professors of public affairs and proximity to the state Capitol."