Evergreen Alum Protects Elephants in Kenya
Evergreen alumnus Marc Goss ’07 leads a life some dream of. He is a wildlife conservationist, trekking across the Maasai Mara National Reserve on the Kenyan plains to collar elephants and track their movements, with the goal of rescuing them from poachers.
Goss, fitting a satellite collar to a tranquilized elephant named Lina.
The land he works is the expansive elephant dispersal area in Narok County, named for its “mara” or spotted landscape of unruly vegetation and oases. It is a distant reality from the lush forested surroundings of Evergreen, where Goss obtained a Bachelor of Science in political ecology. He pursued a path of study at Evergreen that prepared him to plan conservation projects, raise funds and direct programs to protect elephants as the CEO of the Mara Elephant Project organization.
“We protect elephants across the ecosystem. Our collared elephants represent between 400 and 600 elephants, but we protect all elephants across Narok County,” said Goss.
Originally born in Nairobi, Goss was no stranger to being near exotic animals.
“I had a large menagerie of animals growing up and that is when my curiosity and interest in the care for animals started,” said Goss. “The typical guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, lab rates, terrapins and freshwater fish where among the more usual, but there was also a hedgehog, sand boa, Hadada ibis, African grey parrot and dung beetles,” he said.
It was during this time that Goss remembers his curiosity peaking about how to best care for animals.
His father worked in wildlife management for the Kenyan government, establishing and managing parks and reserves before running a small wildlife nongovernmental organization focused on education and conservation. It was his father’s life work that was an inspiration and a catalyst for Goss’ passion for conservation.
“My father was a pioneer warden in Kenya. He also started in forestry and moved to wildlife management for the Kenya government and worked in conservation until his death,” said Goss.
Along the way, Goss found The Evergreen State College, where he was able to get credit for the work he was passionate about. Goss understood Evergreen would help round off his experience and add to his career and the skills he already had.
Goss used Independent Learning Contracts (ILCs) to gain invaluable first-hand experience with other types of conservation projects – everything from planning to fundraising to implementing.
“The ILCs I did were around sustainable forestry and bongo antelope tracking. These allowed me to plan projects, fundraise, manage minor budgets, and implement projects. It also allowed me to demonstrate to my superiors, government and peers that I was capable of starting and managing conservation projects,” Goss said.
He took a number of four-credit courses including business law, nonprofit management, statistics, and others.
“The first year I was so impressed that a program had four different professors - a fish biologist, an evolution scientist, a historian, a maritime expert, etc. So, when we were learning about salmon, we considered all issues surrounding them.”
“To understand any environmental issue, you have to look at the historical context, political context, the species or set of species representing the issue,” he said.
Now, Goss is in a position to protect elephants in their native habitat. He credits his ability to do this work from his training at Evergreen.