About Us: Kristin Carden

Kristin Carden is COMPASS’ Assistant Director, and in this position she is developing and leading trainings, building bridges between the scientific community and policymakers, and making sure COMPASS is connected to relevant science and scientists across many environmental fields.

Her background reflects her interest in the spaces where environmental science, law, and policy intersect – she has a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and a B.S. in Renewable Natural Resources from the University of Arizona.  Prior to coming to COMPASS, Kristin was a seasonal field biologist for the National Park Service, a Knauss Fellow providing staff support to then-Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator (and COMPASS co-founder) Jane Lubchenco, and most recently an attorney with the Northern Rockies Office of Earthjustice.  Coming to COMPASS, she says, “felt like an unparalleled opportunity to bring all the pieces of my background together – science, law, and policy – and work with an organization that’s operating in that space.”

Kristin with her Australian Shepherd, Pono, in Montana.

Here’s more about Kristin:

How did science draw you in?

I grew up in a small town outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up playing in the woods. Every fall I would collect paper sacks full of acorns and put them in a big pile in our backyard so I could watch the squirrels gorge themselves all winter. From a young age, animal behavior was fascinating to me.

I always loved science – one of my first concrete ideas about what I wanted to do, was to become a marine biologist. It’s fun and fascinating to learn how the world works, and I have a deep love and appreciation for wildlife and wildlands. I enjoy learning about the other critters we share the planet with, and believe science is key to helping make our society more sustainable – it’s vital.

How did you come to COMPASS?

After college, I worked as a seasonal field biologist for the National Park Service.  I loved the work – it’s hard to beat sitting in a tree and watching brown bears! – but I started thinking about the bigger picture of conservation.  While science is absolutely necessary for conservation, other things are required too, and I wanted to learn more about those other things.  That led me to law school, and then to UCSB for an interdisciplinary Ph.D.

While I was at UCSB, I was able to attend two COMPASS trainings.  They were really transformative experiences, and made me appreciate how crucial it is for scientists to engage with a broader audience. While in grad school, I was also able to serve as a Knauss Fellow in Washington, D.C., where I worked for Jane Lubchenco (one of COMPASS’ co-founders and former Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator), and I really admire what she’s been able to do as a scientist for society.

Now that I’m here at COMPASS, the sense of community and solidarity and support across the organization has been really exciting – it’s a really warm and welcoming environment to walk into, with amazing people.  I’m excited to be a part of this team!

When you’re not helping scientists communicate their research, what do you like to do?

I cook, in the summer I garden, I do a lot of reading, yoga, and pilates.  And living in Bozeman offers me the opportunity to participate in all kinds of outside activities like hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing.

My two favorite places to visit are Alaska and Hawaii.  Everyone thinks they’re very different, and they are, in term of climate and topography. The raw, rugged vastness of Alaska draws me in, but so does the lush, tropical, nurturing landscape of Hawaii. The people in both places are strikingly similar – there’s a strong sense of both individuality and community, of identity and connection with place.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given?

Don’t do anything out of a sense of obligation – do it because you believe in it and know that it’s important and right.

Kristin kayaking in Alaska.



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  1. Hi Kristin,

    Thanks for sharing a bit about your background. I’m currently working on a PhD in Oceanography, but I am really interested in the intersection between science, policy and the public and am considering shifting to a career outside of academia to work at this interface and help connect science to the wider world. I am wondering if there are things you miss about working in science (especially fieldwork) and what aspects of your current job you enjoy the most?



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