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Mentor Spotlight

Mentor Spotlight - by Insiyaa Ahmed

My career on the River has been shorter than most that have been part of the Mentor Spotlight. But I can say that without a doubt, I would not be where I am today without the guidance and support of the mentors I have encountered over the past several years. I began my work as a biologist on the River 4 years ago as a Student Conservation Association (SCA) intern with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in West Alton, MO. I initially started my position with the hopes of gaining experience in ecological monitoring and natural resource management. I had no idea that it would be the beginning of my career as a biologist. I was completely new to the ecology of a river and to the work involved with natural resource management. I was very lucky to have not one, but three wonderful mentors that supported me and helped me grow to where I am today.

Insiyaa Ahmed working

The first mentor that made it possible for me to pursue my career as a burgeoning biologist was Charlie Deutsch. At the time I began my position as an intern, he was the lead of our Environmental Stewardship team. Despite me having no experience working equipment or conducting forest monitoring, Charlie believed in my ability to learn and my passion for this work. He made it possible for me to move from being an intern to joining the Army Corps full-time. Without his support, I would not have been able to continue working on the River. Beyond that, his advice and guidance (and willingness to have a fun conversation!) gave me the confidence to keep working even when I felt that I had hit a plateau. He now works as the manager of Two Rivers Wildlife Refuge where is continues to improve the region for people and wildlife alike.

Of the many things I had to learn, most of it was learned on the job and in the field while working. And there is no one who taught me more about fieldwork than Brian Stoff. From learning how to identify trees to standing by a boat ramp for 20 minutes while I attempted to back up a boat trailer, Brian taught me most of the skills I use in my job today. To say he was a patient teacher would be an understatement. He was always (and still is) ready to answer any questions I had, even if I had asked it several times before. He continues to be my teacher now as our Lead Forester, and I still find myself learning from him all the time. There is no replacement for having a mentor like Brian that genuinely cares for your success and well-being. It is safe to say that without him, I would still be backing up that boat trailer 4 years ago!

The last mentor I would like to mention is Rob Cosgriff. He is the current supervisor of our team and another River expert that I have had the fortune of working with and learning from. Rob has given me so many opportunities to become a better biologist. He has taught me how to be responsible for the work I do and has encouraged me to pursue projects based on my own interests. There is so much growth that comes from someone trusting you to be capable in your job. He is also always ready to provide guidance if needed based on his wealth of knowledge and experience working on the River. I hope to continue to grow in this field, and he continues to make that possible.

I am grateful to all that have freely provided – and continue to provide - me so much support and guidance!