WWF women scientists on conservation and connecting to nature | Stories

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Mabel Baez Schon, Senior Specialist, Earth Observations, Global Science

“I was at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica when a colorful Toucan landed on the branch I too was perched upon. I was so startled I almost fell off!” said Mabel about the turning point that led her to a career in conservation science. “Resting upon a beautiful tree 35 meters off the ground with a view across a luscious tropical forest, I was struck by an epiphany,” she said. “I had met my fears head on–the worst of which were about snakes and heights–to study what I love.”

Today, Mabel works on conservation projects around the world. “I’ve used my research skills to provide support for projects ranging from deer management in Upstate New York to butterflies in the Amazon rainforest,” she said. But it’s those early moments in her career that shaped her work the most. “I realized that if I wanted to make an impact in conservation my research had to be relevant to the people on the ground who are making critical decisions related to natural resource management and conservation.”

Among her many accomplishments, Mabel’s proudest moment has been receiving her PhD in Natural Resources Conservation and Research. “In 2022, I was one of the 4% of Hispanic female doctoral recipients in the United States,” she said. “As a first generation student getting my PhD was a triumph not only for me, but for my family as well.”

Mabel’s family first arrived in the U.S. when she was 10 years old. “I did not know any English. On my first test at school, I got a 28%! Up until that point, I had always been an A + student, so I was devastated,” she said. But, with her family’s support, she was back on track in no time. “That night my mom brought out our bulky English to Spanish dictionary and my history book and told me to highlight all the words that I could not understand so we could translate them. We went through many highlighters,” said Mabel. “Four months later, I got my first “A” in the U.S.”

The biggest lesson that Mabel has learned throughout her journey is that we are all interconnected. “I’m not alone. Individually our actions may be small, but together we can change the world.”



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