The Emerging Conservationist Award

Nicole Ballard - 2022

Nicole Ballard
Nicole Ballard

At a young age, Nicole Ballard has already inspired countless youth to respect and seek understanding of wildlife and the habitats we share with them. Her efforts in wildlife education have reached hundreds of Montanans and Dakotans through her work in outreach, curriculum design, and ecological knowledge.

Nicole was born in the Black Hills of Hermosa, South Dakota. Her early love for wildlife and conservation was demonstrated in her time as a Handler at the Reptile Gardens in South Dakota and as a Zookeeper at a North Dakota Zoo. She also worked as an educator and tour guide for the Rush Mountain Adventure Park.

Nicole then moved to Missoula to pursue an undergraduate education at the University of Montana. In 2021, she graduated with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology, a minor in Nonprofit Administration, and a certificate in Global Leadership. While a student, she was an active member in clubs, including the UM Wildlife Society and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. She also served as Vice President and President of the UM Student Recreation Association. She did all of this while maintaining a high GPA average, earning the Dean’s List in all eight semesters at UM. Most recently, she earned both a master’s degree in Natural Resources and a Certificate in Environmental Education and Interpretation from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

An avid volunteer, Nicole has cared for animals at Missoula Animal Control and the Hamilton Humane Association and worked on invasive weed management in Lolo National Forest. She has also volunteered and worked part-time for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation where she educated guests on the group’s mission, performed administrative duties, and assisted in creating fieldwork files for Western states’ public land access development projects..

Shortly after graduation, Nicole joined the Teller Wildlife Refuge in 2021 as their Conservation Education Director. She greatly expanded the Teller Education Program by developing courses and curricula for local schools, online courses, and summer camps for both children and adults that focus on wildlife, stream ecology, and archery. Passionate about inspiring the next generation, Nicole conducts outreach with other organizations and works with them to strengthen their conservation messaging.

Nicole’s work ethic has earned high praise and well-deserved scholarships from her colleagues early in her career. She was the recipient of a UM Legacy Scholarship, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Wildlife Leadership Award, the South Dakota Service Award, and, most recently, the Missoula Conservation Roundtable’s Emerging Conservationist Award.

Nicole Ballard’s contributions and service to the outdoors and its inhabitants is living proof that the passion that fueled Montana’s 20th century environmental movement is alive and well today. And it will blossom in future generations thanks to role models like Nicole.

By Kalle Fox

The Missoula Conservation Roundtable gratefully acknowledges generous contributions to our website design. Our logo was created by Kate Davis, Raptors of the Rockies; Brian Christianson contributed the photographs for page headers Brian Christianson Photography

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