Empowering Resilience: Senior Conservation Director Katie Deuel

How do we keep it healthy, whether it is a family system, organizational system, or ecosystem? The Center’s newest staff addition, Katie Deuel, is on a never-ending quest for the optimal answer. Joining our team as the Senior Conservation Director, Deuel brings a wealth of knowledge about building resilience in all systems, especially in the non-profit environmental world. In her role at the Center, she is responsible for building and managing a high-performing team of program managers, researchers, ecologists, policy specialists, and support staff to carry out conservation goals. 

Katie Deuel

While she is passionate about biodiversity conservation, she leans into the human side of conservation as a necessary component of the work on the ground, buttressing collaborative work environments and supporting the organization through the growing pains of rapid expansion. While some flee at first sight of a challenge, Deuel charges towards the epicenter of it and delicately dissects the root issues. With a track record of leadership in developing strategic, mission-driven goals and programs, she hopes to continue fostering an inclusive culture that promotes diversity, leverages everyone’s strengths, and empowers resiliency in human and natural communities.

Deuel is a lifelong student of conservation and the American west: its natural and human History, ecology, current people, cultures, and problems. Raised in St. Louis, she self-proclaims as a typical Midwest teenager (this equates to many hours at the local mall). But throughout childhood and adolescence, time spent outdoors emerged as a common theme for her fondest memories—typical of many environmentalists’ pasts. During school breaks, the family frequently backpacked, even heading to the Wind River Range in Wyoming. These early travels would later influence Deuel to work as a course leader at NOLS, the well-respected National Outdoor Leadership School. Guiding for seven years, Deuel led expeditions in the Rockies, Colorado Plateau, Southwest U.S., Alaska, and Kenya. 

“My life has been a balancing act of grounding myself in nature, being a change agent for issues that I think are important, and pursuing life-long learning through academia, teaching, and experience,” states Deuel.

She completed her undergraduate at Princeton University, majoring in American History and minoring in American Studies. Her senior thesis explored environmentalism’s History—a foreshadowing of her career. Deuel went on to gain a Masters of Science in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana and subsequently worked as the U.S. Conservation Director at the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, finding herself drawn to multi-party mediation and even attending mediation programs outside of work. 

Katie DeuelThen in 2009, her career took a sudden and curious turn; she returned to school for a Master’s degree in Social Work. But in recalling Deuel’s keen interest in building resilience in complex systems, her curiosity about systems thinking and commitment to social justice aligns with her prior work.

“At the heart of every conservation decision are humans working with other humans, and understanding the complexities and strengths of systems at any scale is a key to good decision making,” declares Deuel. 

Not surprisingly, Deuel’s graduating thesis was a portfolio project that applied human attachment theory to both humans and landscapes, recognizing the cultural trauma to a sense of place and community connection from the disruptions of climate change. After procuring her second master’s, she continued to boost an already impressive resume that includes: building North Wind Consulting and providing organization assessments, development, and strategic planning; family and workplace place mediation; contract work on biodiversity protection, climate impacts, and educating for a sense of place in the Northern Rockies; and leading Home Resource as executive director, form a non-profit building materials reuse center to the regions leading community sustainability center. All industries and roles bred and grew her knack for facilitating and directing organizations aiming to improve their operational systems to excel in their mission. 

Outside work, Deuel can be found outdoors hiking, biking, skiing, and appreciating the beauty of the land she has dedicated her career to protecting.

When asked about a single piece of advice for the youth, Deuel, with a slight catch in her voice, says, “Do what you love, find your aptitude, lean into it without the shoulds or woulds. You’re going to do great things.” 

Katie Deuel, an individual whose genuine care for those around her and the land they inhabit, is a highly anticipated and welcomed addition to the Center’s team. 

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