Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with current Scholar Francis Commercon

Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with current Scholar Francis Commercon

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova.

Scholar Year: 2014
Hometown: Highlands Ranch
College, Major(s), and Graduation Year(s):
Colorado State University, double majoring: Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology (College of Natural Resources) and Biological Sciences (College of Natural Sciences), minoring in Chinese; graduating December 2018

What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating?

Our society must find a balance between development and ecological sustainability. Around the world, especially in developing countries, animals’ ranges are shrinking at alarming rates due to habitat destruction and over-hunting. I aspire to work as a conservation biologist in a tropical developing country, researching appropriate tools for conservation of biodiversity, educating other biologists, and reaching out to local communities. The approach must involve a major role as an activist and community organizer, as peer-reviewed papers cannot solve problems alone. I aspire to make conservation projects community-centered and locally driven for the benefit of the local people.

 Tell us about what activities, groups, and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them.

I have been passionate about birds for many years. During my freshman year a friend and I founded CSU Field Ornithologists, a birdwatching club that shares a passion for birding and avian ecology at Colorado State University. We organize at least two birding trips a month to a variety of local and distant destinations and we invite researchers to give talks about new developments in ornithology and bird conservation at our monthly meetings. Being co-president of this club gives me many opportunities to pursue my passion for birds as well as learn skills in leadership.

Tell us about an important mentor you have had.

One of my most important mentors is Meredith McBurney, the bird bander for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. Since I was 13, Meredith helped me develop a more scientific interest in birds. She taught me how to handle birds caught in mist nets and, recently, how to band and measure the birds. And through this, she helped me learn the confidence, patience, and persistence so essential for success. Bird banders assume responsibility for the safety of birds caught for scientific and educational purposes. Meredith carefully invested trust in me in a way that forced me to learn responsibility.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A friend and classmate on my semester abroad in China last fall told me, “Do not fear failure but rather envision success.” At the time I put incredible pressure on myself to succeed in a particularly daunting project. My fear of failure made me anxious and unhappy. When, at my friend’s advice, I tried to think only about what success might look like, I found myself moving toward a goal in a positive way rather than fleeing from monstrous consequences. I was better able to enjoy the process itself.

If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, who would you choose and why?

I would like to meet John James Audubon, the young Frenchman who immigrated to America to become one of this nation’s greatest early naturalists and painters. Audubon hiked through the nineteenth century American wilderness for weeks on end, observing and collecting birds and other wildlife. He was one of the first people to call for the conservation of America’s wilderness and wildlife. I want to know his thoughts on where we are today in America. What would he have to say about our prairies without bison or the fragmentation of eastern forests? And what advice might he give?

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