PhD Candidate in Environmental Science, Policy & Management
University of California, Berkeley
Vice-Chair of HFAB
Sara VanderHaagen, HFAB Communications Chair: How would you describe your vocation, and how are you pursuing that in your current position?
David Kurz: I’m a conservation ecologist, but I’m increasingly coming to see my work as a vocational calling to storytelling. Stories first brought me into conservation: vivid accounts of python wrangling and lemur spying littered the writings of English conservationist Gerald Durrell, my favorite author throughout my teenage years. Now, as I schlep through graduate school, I see the power of stories in myriad modern-day conservation problems as well. The narratives we tell about the environment – from differing perspectives on Yellowstone’s wolves to political appropriations of climate science – powerfully dictate the terms of engagement for lasting conservation solutions. In today’s post-truth world, my vocational goal is to leverage my science to craft true, compelling stories that inspire people to invest in nature conservation.
SV: How has being a Harvey Fellow affected your vocation and life?
DK: As with many fellows, both the affirmation of vocational calling and the financial provision have been impactful for me. I have felt both encouraged and equipped to explore new intersections between my life-long passion for wildlife and my intellectual, theological, and cultural interests. Also, I have recently been given the opportunity to serve the program as the Prayer Chair on the Harvey Fellows Advisory Board. This role has provided a fun chance to seek God with many other fellows; I’m eager to pray for one another and build a kind of spiritual engine together for the future of our program.
SV: What about your work most excites or inspires you right now?
DK: I’m pretty excited about the dissertation chapter I’m currently spending the most time on. It’s an effort to use camera trap data from around Borneo to understand the influence of both environmental and social factors on the distribution of a threatened wild pig that lives in Borneo’s rainforests. This species – the bearded pig – is uniquely migratory, but we think their awe-inspiring, hundred-mile long migrations are disappearing due to overhunting and destruction of rainforest habitat. I actually spent the past year in Borneo catching bearded pigs and it turns out it’s harder than I thought! A lot of the time I was sitting in a tree, being eaten alive by mosquitoes, waiting for these very intelligent, very wary animals to decide if they wanted to enter my traps (hint: they usually did not!!).
SV: What about God’s work most excites or inspires you right now?
DK: For the past few years, God has been showing me how much space there is for us to tell a new story about Christian environmentalism. We Christians are unfortunately known for our complicity in the abuse and mismanagement of our environment, which hurts all manner of life forms, including ourselves (and especially the poor). But I see vast potential to better communicate a conservation ethic in our churches: stewardship not only reveals the glory of God through healthy ecosystems, but it can also lead to better long-term outcomes for impoverished communities and even give us a foretaste of nature’s redemption, which I believe is deeply bound up with our own. What if Christians led the way in environmental protection? That idea excites me.