My journey into conservation biology is not a conventional one. I was born and raised in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and am a first-generation college graduate. My passion for the natural world was first cultivated in a freshman ecology course learning about the intricate ecological webs that make up our ecosystems. I received my B.S. and M.Sc. from the University of Minnesota studying Wildlife Ecology and Management. Since 2014, I have primarily worked in Nepal on biological and social aspects of tiger conservation, human-wildlife conflict mitigation, and community-based conservation initiatives. My work is interdisciplinary, using both biological and social-science methodologies to create realistic and contextual tiger conservation plans in complex social-ecological systems.
I’ve been fortunate to work with many local communities in Nepal and organizations like Nepal’s National Trust for Nature Conservation, Nepal Tiger Trust, Women Acting Together for Change, and World Wildlife Fund. After completing my M.Sc. in 2019, I was awarded a US Fulbright Research Fellowship to Nepal to understand how various stakeholder groups in wildlife-conflict hotspots proactively mitigate conflicts with tigers and the inner workings of Community-Based Anti-Poaching Units. I am currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies studying tiger population connectivity and understanding the local capacity for tiger conservation outside protected areas in Nepal’s community-managed forests. This research will have applied conservation outcomes and give greater understanding to carnivore conservation in growing human-dominated landscapes.
Along with wildlife conservation, I am passionate about science communication to connect people to the natural world and environmental justice. In 2014, I co-founded a 501c3 non-profit Project Conservation which uses scientific media to support wildlife conservation initiatives and communities that steward critical wildlife habitat. In my spare time you will find me using social media to communicate science or hanging out in a jungle. If you are interested in a career in wildlife conservation and would like career advice, applying for a Fulbright scholarship, or want to learn more about my work, please contact me via email.
MS Wildlife Ecology & Management – University of Minnesota- Twin Cities (2019)
BS Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Biology – University of Minnesota- Twin Cities (2014)
Awards & Fellowships
Boren Fellow, US Department of Defense, 2021-2022
Aldo Leopold Distinguished Graduate Fellowship, University of Wisconsin – 2020
Fulbright U.S. Scholar Fellowship, US Department of State – Nepal 2019-2020
Walter H. Judd International Fellowship, University of Minnesota – 2018
Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship, Nepali Language – 2018 & 2020
Helle, S. 2021. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Worldview Radio, Tooth & Claw: Tigers, July 28th, Guest Scientist; episode on tiger ecology and research.
Helle, S. 2021. Rewildology: Nepal: Co-existing with Giants, It’s Never a Straight Line, May 4th, Podcast Interview.
Helle, S. 2020. Into the Wild Podcast, Tigers & Conservation in Nepal, October 2020, Podcast Interview.
Helle, S. 2020. Why Nepal’s Community-Based Anti-Poaching Units Matter, Featured Session for World Wildlife Fund Nepal Earth Hour, March 28th, Online Video Presentation.
Helle, S. 2020. Capacity Building Amidst Conflict: Community Human-Tiger Conflict Mitigation, 2020 Fulbright International Conference, Kochi, India, February 2020, Presentation & Panel Member.
Helle, S. 2019. Gender Dimensions of Human-Tiger Conflict in Chitwan National Park, Nepal: Walter H. Judd Fellows Expo, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 23rd, Poster.
Helle, S. 2018. Roles of People in Conservation: Community Forestry & Tiger Conservation in Nepal.
Course: FWCB4102 Principles of Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, April 26th, Lecture.
Helle, S. & Erhart, E. 2018. Project Conservation: Human-Tiger Conflict in Nepal. Interdisciplinary
Perspectives on International Development Research Symposium. University of Minnesota. Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 20th, Presentation.
Schultz, L., K.C. Nelson, M. Barnes, and S. Helle. 2017. How could the grass on your campus be as ‘green’ as it looks? Association of American Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), San Antonio, Texas, October 15-18, Poster.
Mercer-Taylor, B., K.C. Nelson, M. Barnes, and S. Helle. 2017. How could the grass on your campus be as ‘green’ as it looks? Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability (UMACS), Central College, Pella, Iowa, October 5, poster.
Habitat and population connectivity of Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) in Nepal’s Community Forests
English – Native Speaker
Nepali – Advanced
Spanish – Beginner